4 Ways to Disagree Graciously with Other Christians

4 Ways to Disagree Graciously with Other Christians by GAVIN ORTLUND for The Gospel Coalition

Some Christians are eager to defend sound doctrine. Well and good.

But is the unity of the body of Christ one of those doctrines we jealously guard? The unity of the church is one the objects of Christ’s death (Eph. 2:14). This, as much as anything else, is what the New Testament calls us to cherish and uphold. Therefore, our zeal for theology must never exceed our zeal for our actual brothers and sisters in Christ. We must be marked by love. We must, as my dad always puts it, pursue both gospel doctrine and gospel culture.

In the New Testament, humility is the pathway to unity. For instance, Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians about “being of the same mind” (Phil. 2:2) is followed by his appeal to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3), in imitation of Christ’s action toward them in the gospel (Phil. 2:5–11).

Or consider Paul’s appeal to unity in Romans 14. The presenting issue in this chapter is a conflict over Jewish food laws, but the principles Paul invokes could apply to many other issues as well. His overriding concern in this chapter is that the different convictions held by Roman Christians not be a source of division among them. Thus, the “strong” and the “weak” are called to mutual acceptance.

Specifically, amid their differences of conscience, Paul calls them to be welcoming (Rom. 14:1), not to quarrel (Rom. 14:1), not to despise each other (Rom. 14:3), and not to pass judgment on one another (Rom. 14:3, 13). Paul even calls the Romans to let go of their rights and adjust their practice in order not to violate the conscience of a brother:

If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. (Rom. 14:15)

Today, as well, there are plenty of issues over which Christians will be tempted to quarrel, despise each other, and pass judgment on each other. Instead, we must resolve “never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Rom. 14:13). Like Paul, we must even be willing to make sacrificial adjustments for the sake of our unity with others in the body of Christ. If maintaining the unity of the body of Christ is not costing you anything—if it doesn’t hurt—then you probably are not adjusting enough.

Paul grounds his appeal in Romans 14:10 in the fact that each person will stand before the judgment seat of Christ:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

This is healthy to remember: we’ll give an account of our theological speech and conduct, no less than any other area of our life. When we’re standing before the throne on judgment day, what battles will we look back on and be proud we fought? I suspect most of our Twitter debates will not be among them.

Continue Reading / The Gospel Coalition >>>

Related posts