“Like dissolves like.” It’s one of the first things I learned in basic chemistry. It’s a simple phrase that reminds us that oils mix with oils, water mixes with other hydrophilic liquids, but oil and water just don’t mix!
Unfortunately, that same principle seems to spill over into far too many churches and relationships. This may have been on Paul’s mind when he wrote, “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)
The first thing I notice in Paul’s command is our need to accept those who disagree with us over non-essential matters. Paul used a very specific word that meant to aggressively receive or welcome to one’s side with strong personal interest. This was a far cry from a mere tolerance of those with whom we disagree.
Secondly, Paul says we need not quarrel over the non-essential, disputable areas of faith. In fact, the original language implies these matters are really just personal opinions or conclusions reached by human reasoning. Paul went on to list a couple of examples that were relevant at that time – what foods to eat, what day of the week is most sacred, etc. The number of “disputable things” today seems almost endless – hair length and color, body piercings, tattoos, music preference, etc.
Whatever they are, Paul says not to fight over them. But how can we set our strong opinions aside in order to accept our brother who disagrees? Paul gives us two very practical applications later in the chapter. First, we’re told to, “…stop passing judgment on one another.” (14:13) Later, Paul advises us, “whatever you believe about these (disputable) things keep between yourself and God.” If sharing your opinion about a non-essential is going to lead to a quarrel, just don’t say it!
How are we to deal with those who disagree with us? Accept them warmly, don’t judge, and keep our opinions between ourselves and God. Not easy, but Scriptural! –Dave
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