1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (NIV)
In this passage, Paul is addressing the issue of food. The Old Testament law had forbidden some foods as being unclean. But God gave Peter a vision of unclean food now being cleaned to symbolize the Gospel of Christ was not just for Israel but for Gentiles as well. From this point, the New Testament church was no longer under the restriction of certain foods. Yet, some Jews who were now becoming Christians struggled with this and insisted on staying with the old menu. Who was right?
Biblically, those who reiterated what God told Peter were right. There were no more restrictions, but Paul’s advice to Christians, especially mature Christians, was to not argue about it. Because eating a restrictive diet was not sinful because their motives were still to please God and because God knew as they matured, they would understand, that it was not worth arguing about who was right. How often has your witness been dampened because for a moment, being right on an issue became more critical than being loving to the other?
Americans are not good at anything if we are not good at arguing. But arguing never helps anything. Arguing with unbelievers over spiritual matters only creates strife. Arguing with Christians creates division. Arguing with less mature Christians destroys our reputation with them and ruins our influence.
The Holy Spirit works through unity. When we choose to argue over something, it’s as if we are asking the Holy Spirit to step out of the room so we can deal with the situation as we choose. Whether we are arguing over politics, a heated competition, traffic, or which version of the Bible is best, nothing good will ever come out of it.
There is a difference between arguing and having a conversation where each side is sharing with the other their viewpoint in an attempt to persuade. But persuasion also never includes argument. Persuasion doesn’t steal a person’s freedom to believe as they choose. Arguments attempt to force a person to believe a certain way. It is attempted robbery of another’s freedom to choose what they believe.
As Christians, there is nothing more important than our reputation. Getting upset over things that do not matter in the eternal scheme of things is unproductive for our own souls and destructive to the souls of others.
Lord, help me to maintain a posture of love and the priority of ministering to others more than proving them wrong. Amen.