Echo Article: Handling Differences of Conscience

How are the people of God to handle differences of opinion and conviction among one another? Often times the church can become disgruntled over matters of conscience. Two or more people hold a difference of opinion, and where there was once unity, now division. I believe it is safe to say all pastors will wrestle with encouraging the members of Christ’s church to love one another amid diversity. I also believe many Christians desire to keep unity, but they cannot compromise their convictions.

In moments like these, may I encourage a pursuit of wisdom and humility? The Bible teaches that “All the ways of man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Prov 16:2). People stand behind convictions they deem most true. Indeed, It is not natural for us to take a position we believe is wrong. When confronted with a difference of opinion, we should allow others to be heard. Often brothers and sisters are labeled and judged too quickly. Listen and evaluate if the differences of opinion are heretical, hypocritical, cultural, uninformed, experiential, a simple difference, partly true, or correct. You might be supervised what you hear from someone else. I have changed my opinion before because someone had the opportunity to speak.

Further, respect one another. We are to understand that God is Lord of the conscience (Jas 4:12; Rom 14:4; Gal 5:1). Though there are some beliefs and practices that are considered clean, if one’s conscience is convicted by such a practice it is considered a sin for them to engage (Rom 14:22-23). Because of this I do not hastily persuade someone to take my position on a variety of issues! Below are other principles that I seek to establish when dealing with differences of Christian liberty:

1. Desire to know God’s Word. By knowing the Bible we can ask, “Is God’s Law being transgressed? Does Scripture clearly speak on the matter?” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” A knowledge of what the Bible says is paramount. It shines light on decisions like these.

2. Understand that man must obey his conscience (Rom 14:1-4, 13, 22; 1 Cor 15:5; 1 John 3:19-24). Though brothers and sisters in Christ may differ on an issue, understand that rebelling against personal conscience is done outside of faith.

3. Keep all words and deeds edifying so God may receive glory(1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17).

4. Remember Christian liberty must be built on a foundation of spiritual freedom. Liberty is not a license to do whatever one pleases. Liberty is the right to do as God pleases without fear. Likewise, liberty must not surrender in a way that misrepresents the faith (Gal 2:3; Col 2:16-23). There are circumstances where it is appropriate to hold to liberty tightly.

I pray as we wrestle with matters of the conscience and liberty, our Lord sees His people loving and patient towards each other. May our conduct display His love and wisdom!

In Christ by His Grace,

Pastor Daniel

Three Exhortations for the Church to Obey Together

I would like to encourage you to remember the three exhortations given in Hebrews 10:19-27

  • Let us draw near to God (v. 22)
  • Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23)
  • Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (v. 24)

Notice that the author ends these commands by saying, while you obey these three things, don’t neglect to meet together but encourage one another (v. 25). All the commands start with “let us”. God did not intend for us to do these things alone but rather they are to be done together as the body, as the Church, as we meet together on Sundays and during the week.

When one turns to Jesus, they are united to him and in effect become united to every other person that is in Christ. Becoming part of a local church and obeying these three commands together with other Christians is a direct outworking of your salvation. It is evidence that you are truly in Christ. This becomes clear in the next verse. “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” (v. 26) We need one another in order to live out these commands as God intends.

 

I’m Offended, What Should I Do?

What are we to do with conflict or disagreement?  James 4:11 says this, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

We are called as Christians not to speak evil against one another.  This means that gossiping, sharing information, and harsh tones should not be seen in the members of the church.  But what should we do instead?  If someone is in sin or wrongs us are we supposed to simply not speak evil against them and let them continue in sin?  By no means!  Praise the Lord Galatians 6:1 says this, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”  How amazing is that!?  We don’t have to speak bad things of our brothers in Christ, instead we come along side them and show them their fault, helping them grow out of it into Christ.

This clear biblical model is laid out in Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6, Hebrews 3:12-13, Hebrews 10:24-25 and elsewhere and it brings much glory to God when it is followed.  If you need help with this, come to me and I will try to lead you in a biblical direction.  I thank each of you who have responded to the Sunday school lesson from last week and have lived this out, Praise God for his work in your life.  Let us continue in this together.