For those of you who don’t know this about me, I love to do research and analyze my findings. Those who are close to me know this “flaw” of mine firsthand. I get stuck on a theological topic (usually controversial in nature), research it for days, and then share my conclusions with those around me until they are sick and tired of hearing about it! I’m not exactly sure why I do this, and I usually know full well when I’m doing it. I just can’t help myself sometimes. I get so caught up in the debate over differing beliefs. It’s fun for me!
No theological “camp” or denomination is going to be 100% right about every theological issue. Everywhere I turn, however, I see believers arguing over these issues as if their salvation depends on it. (I will admit that I have been guilty of this a few times in my life as well.) Just the other day I was watching a video on YouTube about tithing only to find that some of the most hurtful comments regarding the issue came from those who claimed to follow God. Is that really necessary? Doesn’t God’s Word call us to live in love? It’s one thing to stand up for our beliefs, it’s another to put people down simply for the sake of arguing or proving a point.
Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. – Titus 3:9 (NLT)
We are obviously going to have differences of opinion when it comes to certain theological issues. The New Testament urges believers to not argue about these differences, but instead hold on to the truth of the Gospel message. God calls His children to live in unity and harmony with one another. We are, after all, one body of believers.
So how should we handle our differing beliefs and opinions?
- We must hold on to the fundamental truth of the Gospel message. Our beliefs should never contradict this basic truth. (Titus 3 and 2 Corinthians 11:1-4) When it comes to salvation, it’s the core truth that counts. Our views on the more “trivial” aspects of church doctrine are not what save us. It’s our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. It is turning from our sin with a repentant heart and surrendering our lives to serving Him rather than ourselves. In the end, these are the truths that separate a believer from a non-believer
- We must never quarrel or argue about our beliefs. (Titus 3:10-11) It’s one thing to have a discussion over what we believe and why; but as soon as that discussion becomes an argument, we’ve crossed the line. How do we know if we are discussing or arguing? A discussion builds us up, while an argument tears us down. As believers, we are called to be peacemakers. God takes divisive attitudes quite seriously. Jesus’ final prayer for us before He was arrested and crucified was that we would be united as His followers. For this to be His final prayer for us, it must be important.
- We must never let our personal beliefs cause someone to stumble in their Christian walk. Food was a big issue in the New Testament. Many new Gentile believers were accustomed to eating the foods that were forbidden by the Jewish law; however, many of the Jewish converts still felt they needed to honor the Law of Moses. This division was causing a lot of grief in the early church.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. – Romans 14:19-21 (NLT)
It’s a good thing to study theology and discuss our differing beliefs. I can honestly say that my studies and discussions have only proven to build my faith in Christ. We must be careful, however, to not let it divide us. We are to build each other up in the faith, not tear each other down.
How will others see the love of God if we can’t even demonstrate His love to our fellow believers in Christ?