Christianity 201

January 13, 2023

Quarreling, Divisions and those Weak in Faith

Sit back, as this devotional goes in several directions at once!

First, as we should, let’s begin with text. Romans 14:1 should be familiar to most of you:

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. (NLT)

Give a warm welcome to any brother who wants to join you, even though his faith is weak. Don’t criticize him for having different ideas from yours about what is right and wrong. (TLB) (That’s how I first learned it.)

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not to have quarrels over opinions. (NASB)

Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. (NET)

I think you get the idea.

I was drawn to this verse on Wednesday when someone who is considerably younger than myself quoted it to me from the KJV. I’m always surprised when a new generation embraces this translation, as I expected it to die out in the 21st Century, but it’s not on a trajectory to do that anytime soon. It reads,

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

That phrase, “doubtful disputations,” a form of the word dispute, got my attention, and got me meditating — as we spoke about a few days ago — on this passage again.

First (and I grant that this is somewhat anecdotal) I’ve noticed that many new believers immediately form opinions based on their reading of scripture; opinions which they believe should be prescriptive for everyone.

Let me give an example of how this strikes me: My oldest son is an Electrical Engineer. I know relatively nothing about the profession. If I were to read a few newspaper or online articles and then offer strong opinions on some matter related to the field, he might take the time to correct me, or he might just smile and walk away, completely bewildered as to how I have someone become an expert on something for which I am entirely unqualified to offer an opinion. Furthermore, at some point I would expect to be self-aware enough to realize that I simply didn’t know what I was talking about.

This is however, something we often see in the local church. People come arrive at our fellowships with some pre-loaded opinions on various matters, and become quite infuriated when we who have walked with Jesus for considerably more years do not hold the same convictions.

We, being human, often respond with equal passion!

The NLT citation of the verse says to simply not engage the debate. (For those of you who know your book of Proverbs, about a dozen cross-references might come to mind!)

But the NASB rendering of the verse suggests there might be some who would invite someone into their fellowship for the very purpose of debating them. Instead, we should simply accept them.

Decades ago, the worship team Scripture In Song wrote “The Song of Acceptance” in which they took Romans 15: 6-7, but reversed the order of the verses, leading to this phrasing:

(v.7) Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God, (v.6) so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)

Second, I think the backwards nature of the situation bears exploring. One would expect those who have studied the scripture for decades to be the ones with established positions on issues. But it doesn’t work that way. While they clearly “know who they have believed” it because of the relational dynamic implicit in knowing Christ that they avoid inter-personal conflicts. In other words, they’ve got all the right information about theology and doctrine, but they’ve also absorbed the right character of Christ so that they are less argumentative. They have the doctrine that comes with years of study, but they also have the spirit of humility.

In at least one case where I’ve run into relatively new believers whose ideas are inflexible, or intransigent, what I want to say to them is, ‘You lack a humble apologetic.’

A few days ago I read a news account which contained this quote: “He is my political opponent, but he is not my enemy.” Too many times our real enemy would have us see the other person as a threat to the work of the global Church, when they are instead simply a highly opinionated new believer sharing their issues with those within earshot.

Third, such debates can consume much time, mental energy, and even physical energy (through stress) that could instead be put into building the kingdom.

I’ll leave us with Eugene Peterson’s rendering of today’s key verses in The Message Bible:

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.


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