Galatians 2:11-14 NASB
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Acts 15:39-40 NIV
They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.”
So here we have four people, noted in the New Testament, who obviously all were believers and within whom the Holy Spirit obviously resided, being in disagreement with one another.
Peter, Paul, Barnabas, James plus Mark and Silas if you count them as part of the disagreement.
Do you ever wonder, like I do, how it is that Christians, within whom God’s Holy Spirit resides, can have differing opinions?
Isn’t it interesting that the Holy Spirit of God saw fit to include this in the New Testament, so that we might be aware of it and learn from it.
One of the posts I published recently touched on politics. Now one doesn’t need to be a brain surgeon to know that when one does so, one is entering into troubled waters. Some of my followers probably read it but they chose not to indicate as to whether they liked it or not. Some chose to indicate that they did like it but did not comment. Another Christian individual indicated he liked it and added a comment and another Christian took the time to let me know that he had issues with some of my content. Actually, I got off with only minor scratches, considering the subject matter that I had entered into.
But politics is not the only area of contention that Christians have disagreements on, we all know there are many others.
When one considers the power of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles and early disciples of the Christian Church were promised and given and the numerous demonstrations of God’s power that were active in the early Christian Church, we can’t overlook the obvious examples of disagreement and discord that God’s Holy Spirit also wants us to be aware of.
And we also can’t overlook the obvious different levels of understanding of God’s will and God’s ways in the early Christian Churches where certain individuals within those early Churches made decisions that also needed correcting. You recall how the Apostle Paul had to correct a number of Churches to whom he wrote his letters to.
The reality that I see and you can correct me if you think that my thinking is adrift, is that sometimes, we make mistakes and sometimes we have disagreements, even though God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us. Does that mean that one person is always wrong and another is always right? I don’t think this is necessarily so. I also entertain the idea that there is a strong possibility that both parties who express differing opinions or make different decisions could fall short of God’s perfect will and God’s perfect ways. We only see in part now, we only understand in part now. 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 refers.
The important thing to be aware of, from my perspective, is being aware of other perspectives that may differ from my opinions and how I react to those differing opinions, both from a Biblical and personal perspective. If there is a difference of opinion in one of the main doctrines of Christianity, especially where it involves the deity of Jesus, then my understanding is that if the understanding or beliefs of the opposing individual detracts from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then he or she and I will part ways.
Conversely, if there is room for a difference of opinion, while still maintaining fellowship, then that is the route that God’s Word tells me to follow. We see a number of examples of this in the New Testament where one person eats all different kinds of food or holds all days as the same, while another refrains from eating certain foods and may honour one day over another. I call these “decisions of the conscience”. Romans 14 refers.
Problem being, what you may consider as a “decision of the conscience” and what I may consider as a “decision of the conscience” may also differ. You may think that my decision does not qualify as a “decision of the conscience” and I may think that it does. Church history provides many examples of these differing perspectives.
If maneuvering through these realities wasn’t easy for the early Christian Church, why do we think it should be any different for us?
I find it strange that we look for perfection in others but overlook the lack of perfection in ourselves. I find it strange that we expect others to forgive us when we cross the line but we draw the line on others, when they cross the line. We all make mistakes, we all make errors in judgements, we all are imperfect. That is a reality that Jesus stressed over and over again, removing the branch from our own eye before we attempt to remove the twig from another. When we stop evaluating our own words and actions and focus entirely on what others do, our center of balance becomes distorted and out of line with God’s perfect will and ways. That, in my opinion, is reality.
Time and time again, the essence of the commandments of Jesus to all of us comes to the forefront as a guide on how we are to proceed and if behooves all of us to be mindful that this is His guidance to us.
Matthew 7:12 NIV “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Galatians 5:14 NIV “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We dislike and are offended when Christians are labelled as being self righteous and bigoted yet we sling labels at others without hardly any hesitation. The Democrats and Republicans as examples, are political organizations that are comprised of people. People, that are imperfect, like you and like me.
When we stop seeing them or hearing them as people and see them as a group that is to be demonized, totally rejecting them outright without hearing their opinions and concerns, regardless of which side of the fence we are on, are we following the guidance and commandment of Jesus and loving them as we love ourselves?
UPDATE: Steven from https://thebrewisamusing.com/2020/01/21/why-not-rather-be-wronged-2/ recently pointed out that Paul and Mark did reconcile with one another later on as confirmed in “Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984). It’s important to remember that reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ should always be an important objective, if at all possible.
Food for thought.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!