“…BUT I’M RIGHT” – May 28

May 29, 2013

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”  Romans 14:1

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists.

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A discussion about the subtleties of particular theological positions can feel like a mine field.  I have some family members with whom I have agreed to an armistice regarding certain branches of theology.  They never seem to go well; just hint at predestination and the tension in a Sunday School class will escalate.  Most of us have experienced discussions that are religious in nature which have quickly turned into various degrees of quarrels.  After one of these chats, my wife no longer accepts my explanations that start with, “All I said was…”  It is why I am effectively banned from such discussions at most social gatherings.

I don’t know why I get myself in those situations.  It is the rare occasion when I have one of these discussions with a person with whom I disagree and I walk away feeling uplifted, encouraged, and joyful.  I wonder how often God is glorified in these intense theological discussions.

The list for which we Christians have drawn hard theological lines is very long:

Bible Translation             Style of Worship   Eschatology                    Predestination
Days of Celebration  Baptism    Clothing          Alcohol  Tobacco         Days of Worship

We get all worked up about them because we are so convinced in what we believe.  Yet, I wonder how many of these quarrelsome issues will really matter in the end.

The fact that we are so convinced is actually a good thing.  We should be convinced about how we live our faith.  Our faith should matter to us enough that we have at least an opinion.  We should be confident about how we walk in the Spirit.  We should be decisive in the decisions we make regarding that which we partake and abstain.  It is a good thing to have conviction.

We are told that everything that does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23b)

Therefore, we should have very strong opinions about our faith.  What we believe about all the minor issues of our faith does matter.  We should not be wishy-washy about theology.  I have be told by friends that they have no intention of becoming convinced about a certain theological position because they are going to follow Jesus and Jesus alone.  I do not see where Paul is encouraging that sort of non-committal approach in order to avoid conflict.  Faith is center to our lives.  Everything that we do that does not come from faith is sin.  That is serious.  So, we should know what we believe and why we believe it.  We should have strong opinions about how we live our lives.  That is what it means to be fully convinced in our own mind.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5

The question is how we are to handle these strong opinions?

As Paul teaches, we all are going to give an account of ourselves to God.  I will stand before our God and you will stand before our God and we will both have to give an account for all of our strong beliefs and how we lived them out.  The implication of this teaching is to lead us to conclude that there can be more than one right answer.

Just because something is wrong for me does not mean that it is wrong for you.
Just because something is right for me does not mean that it is right for you.

 I don’t like that very much.  It does not fit into my tidy, black and white, world.  I like things to be right or wrong.  My comfort is found in crisp distinctions.  I would prefer there to be one correct answer.  How can I be glorifying God in my actions and a person doing the direct opposite also be glorifying God?  That just messes with my head.

I think that the reason our discussion rise to quarrels is because we are fully convinced that there is one right answer.  Think about all of those conversations that you have had on theology that seemed to go in circles and were so wholly unsatisfying.  Maybe, they were so unsatisfying due to the fact that the equally right answers already resided in each of your hearts.  The fact that two people with opposite opinions can both be right is a concept that I have to be continually reminded of.

Therefore, we can relax when it comes to one another.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his own Master that he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  Romans 14:4

The real issue that we should be concerned about is whether someone is saved; whether someone has been welcomed by God (Romans 14:3b).  The essential issue is whether someone is justified by faith in Christ Jesus.  If they are saved, then they are responsible for their own faith before God.  The good news is that our Lord is able to make all of His children stand before Him.  Just think about what an incredible promise this is.  Every follower of Christ is empowered in Christ to stand before God.  We just need to learn to trust God to complete the work that He has started in our lives and the lives of others.

That is why we can chill-out about all these non-essential theological issues.  God has it all under control.   God is the founder and perfecter of both of our faith.  He is more than capable to uphold his own children.

Our strong convictions free us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

It is because of our strong opinions that we are free to really love one another and seek their well-being.  The reality that we can both be right should motivate us to lay aside those non-essential issues and seek our brother or sister’s well-being more than being right.  Being right does not matter nearly as much as someone feeling welcomed and loved.  Our goal should be for them to feel welcome and encouraged rather than judged.   In fact, the confidence that we have in the Lord, by being fully convinced of what we believe, obligates us to bear with the failings (differing opinions) of our brothers and sisters  and to to not seek to please ourselves(Romans 15:1).

Also, we are set free  from other people’s opinions.  Ultimately, my faith is between God and me.  It is not subject to community polling.  This does not mean I can kill people to the glory of God; commit adultery to the glory of God; or cheat on my taxes to the glory of God.  This does not free me to be a false teacher or to embrace heresy.  However, it frees me from the opinions of other on non-essential issues.  I have felt judged by others on how I live my life (spend money, take vacation, hours worked, etc.), but I was not convinced in my own heart that what I was doing was wrong.  This sort of judgmental attitude by our brothers and sisters in Christ can really steal our joy and rock our faith.  We are freed from their opinions because we can both be right.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit Romans 14:17

We need to be convinced of our faith in our own hearts and live the faith He as called us to for the glory of God.  We need to walk faithfully in the Spirit and bask in the peace and joy of our faith.  Our faith is not a burden.  Don’t let the opinions of other people make it a burden.  We are called to live in the joy of our King.  Let’s embrace the freedom of the hope of God to live in all joy and peace of believing with a fully convinced heart.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for for setting me free in Christ Jesus.  Forgive me for those times where I have made a fellow brother or sister feel unwelcome and judged.  Forgive me for caring more about the rightness of my doctrine rather than your righteousness, peace, and joy.  Forgive me for not loving my fellow heirs of God like you do.   Lord, help me to see your children as You do.  Help me to love as you do.  Make me a man who pursues peacemaking for mutual upbuilding.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.


  1. […] “…BUT I’M RIGHT” – May 28 (boyslumber.wordpress.com) […]

    • Thank you so much for the link; it was very much appreciated.
      Merry Christmas

  2. Reblogged this on Fireflies Dance & Lavender and commented:
    Great devotion and discussion.

  3. At the Christian university I attended, everyone had to take “Philosophy and Christian Thought.” Out textbook was a thick tome entitled, The Protestant Faith. It only covered those beliefs that all demoninations have in common. I was surprised and delighted that there is much we all can celebrate–together. To my thinking, it makes sense to focus on those matters that contribute to unity, not divisiveness. Yes, now and then we must discuss the topics you mentioned. But I agree: they do not make for edifying conversation at social gatherings!

  4. I don’t worry about the details. Jesus said we should be like little children and just love. I can do that.

  5. Jd

    Your awesome blogging deserves you an award! I nominated you for one


  6. Good devotional, I can struggle with wanting to be right…I appreciate your format of having a closing prayer

  7. YOU SAID: “This does not free me to be a false teacher or to embrace heresy.”

    Who gets to decide precisely what is heresy? We either goose step to the tenants of mainline Christianity, or we are consider heretics by those who adamantly adhere to “traditional” doctrines. Only problem is, there are several supposedly biblical doctrines that are in all actuality, post-biblical traditions (teachings, doctrines) of men, based upon eisegesis of select biblical texts. The greatest of these being the post-biblical teaching of the trinity -which began as a defense of the divinity of Christ but evolved into the opposite extreme (that Jesus IS God instead of LIKE God because he is the SON of God).

    So one man’s heresy is another man’s ‘gospel truth’.

    • I think that my post actually answers the question of “who gets to decide what is heresy”. Every person must listen to what they are being taught and go to the scriptures to determine if what they are being told is true, just as the Bereans did. The determination of sound biblical teaching is ultimately up to the individual to be fully convinced of.
      In the context of Paul’s teaching in Romans 14 & 15 there was one group who probably considered the other group heretics. Paul was willing to give up his freedom in Christ and show love to those who might classify his beliefs as heretical. I have heard many people who rail against the “traditional” or the “religious” for impinging upon the freedoms of their faith in Christ. The rhetoric is most often not loving and not how I believe Paul is encouraging act toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.
      Are you willing to be welcoming to the person who considers you a heretic?
      Are you willing to set your own freedoms in Christ aside in order not to cause your weaker brother or sister in Christ to stumble?
      Are you willing to love them as yourself despite the fact that they adhere to “traditional doctrines”?
      How we respond to those who disagree with us defines whether we are the stronger or weaker brother. It is the stronger brother who seeks to the well-being of a fellow follower of Christ above his doctrinal position.
      I believe that there is such a thing as false teaching. I believe that there is such a thing as heresy. I believe that there is such as thing a false gospel. I think that all of those teachings should be challenged and the biblical errors pointed out but it should all be done in a manner that the other person knows that they are cared about and their best is desired.
      God Bless!

      • I agree with you whole-heartedly. I have no problem extending the love, even when others are less-than-loving toward me (downright hateful at times), I was bringing forward how mainline Christianity treats those who fail to fall in line with “traditional” Christian tenets, creeds, and doctrines.

        Look at how much hatred and loss of life resulted here in the U.S. when some broke ranks regarding biblically-supported slavery, for example.

  8. Hosea is my go-to in this situation. In him God has shown me that He calls different people to different walks. I would have been totally judgmental of Hosea had I been his contemporary- a preacher marrying a prostitute– yea right “God told you to do it!” Yikes, where’s my heart? and I miss out on the blessing of what God has to teach me and strike at what God is teaching others. Daryl is so right on in leaving conviction to the Holy Spirit and using it as an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus in prayer! This was a great post, Thanks!

  9. A very good attempt to defuse these disputations JD, but the problem still remains in deciding which things are non-essentials. Your idea that we just need to be concerned with salvation, is wider than first appears. A Mormon will believe in his heart and confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) but he’s not saved, because he is believing and confessing the wrong Jesus, and the wrong God.

    • Ann Marie
      You put your finger directly on the issue. I don’t think disputes will ever be eliminated. The Church has always had to address false teaching and theological drift away from the true gospel. I don’t see that changing. There will be always be differing opinions on what is essential and non-essential. It is one of the reasons that I think it so important for every Christian to know what they believe and the Biblical reason for why they believe it. It appears to me that Paul’s teaching is for those who are fully convinced of a non-essential issue. He is telling them how to act toward the other person who may hold that a position as essential or making too much of a non-essential issue.
      Alistair Begg has a quote I like, “the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.” One of those main things is the question of who Jesus Christ is. Those types of essential issues are key to the gospel and salvation. We would doing the other person a incredible disservice by allowing them to follow a false belief to hell.
      I don’t have any easy answers. The encouragement that I took away from this passage is to be much more intentional in how I interact with other believers and think much more about them rather than their argument.
      God Bless!

      • What an excellent answer! Thank you so much. I wish there were more careful-thinking Christians out there.

  10. I think you are wise for avoiding doubtful disputations. Sometimes we do the Kingdom of God more harm than good, by adopting an attitude in our debate that is prideful, or in some other way cannot be reconciled to Christ. People dig in their heels during such doubtful disputations and it makes it harder for the Holy Spirit to reach them in a matter where you have polarized them. I know there is a time God wants us to take a position, but regarding these doubtful disputations, I try to leave “conviction” of their wrong doing or wrong thinking to the Holy Spirit to accomplish. He is much better at it than I am. I just pray.

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