Faith and Discussion, Debate and Division

So many differing opinions have arisen these past few months. Conversations quickly turn from discussions to debate and then if not checked into divisions–even among God’s family. I have even surprised myself with the struggle to explain my thoughts and how quickly I find myself on the defense. Masks or no masks, gathering or no gathering, was this a planned pandemic? Or did it unfortunately just happen? So many questions, so many thoughts–who can you trust? What can you trust? How do we, as believers, proceed?

First, I want to apologize for the times I have moved from healthy discussion into debate. When we first began the shelter in place phase, the Holy Spirit spoke quite clearly to me, stay home and stay safe–you are important to the body of Christ. I repeat this with humility, because I am just His servant attempting to follow Him. So I very carefully stayed away from going out. My family did my shopping, or I ordered on line and did not darken a store for two months. When the Lord spoke to me, I simply chose to obey. I felt an immense peace about His request. I respect the fact that others had different assignments from Him. Washington was on the front lines of this pandemic in the United States. We were learning how to be safe (and still are). I am grateful for technology that kept our church and Life Group connected. Everyone was grappling with the “new” normal, with a seeming common enemy–Covid-19.

But gradually people began to share differing points of view from what they heard. Friendly discussions crossed into the beginnings of debate with obvious defensive points being lobbed by both sides. FB became a hot mess with both sides being presented as absolute Truth. Was this a planned conspiracy from the beginning? Or was it the result of our sinful world which is full of sickness and disease just manifesting itself? Are we subtly being groomed like mindless sheep for future restrictions? All I know is we serve a Sovereign God who is reigning over our lives. I choose to be His sheep, seeking Him and His ways. I do know that as we pray in agreement for God’s will to be done, it will be. How sneaky of our enemy to try to get God’s body to divide over mask wearing?

As the Holy Spirit began to talk to me about my part in accelerating the debate issue, I repented and ask for wisdom (again!). Romans 14 is an amazing chapter for this day and age. Paul talks to the differing perspectives over two major issues facing the Roman church. Food choices and which day of the week to worship. These were not essentials of solid doctrine, but a matter of personal perspectives. Paul shares some amazing wisdom that I believe if we applied today, we would be farther ahead!

Romans 14:4, who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. In other words, we must follow our own conscience. We must allow others to follow theirs without criticism or judgement.

Romans 14: 17, For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If we please God, and others will approve of you too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

This is a time for maturely approaching our perspectives. Proverbs 18:19 says an offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city, Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Let us work hard not to offend our friends with our stance, but listen with an open heart. Trusting their Master will lead and guide them as well as us into His truth. Let us listen first of all to our Master–and His wisdom.

My friends, healthy discussion is that, healthy. Listen with loving ears. Debate for debates sake is at best useless, but can lead to harmful division. We can agree to disagree or like medieval writer, Rupertus Mildenius: On the essentials, unity; on the non-essentials, freedom, in everything love. As churches choose to open or not, let us love those that choose to attend, and keep loving those who are not yet free to do so. Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying!

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