When We Disagree


We had a great Friendship service last Sunday. We celebrated God’s love and grace for our Friendship group together. Now, we need to remember that we are in the midst of the season of Lent. Today is the third Sunday of Lent, and we are continuing the sermon series on Lent, ‘How Long?’.

It is a time of reflection, repentance, and renewal. In this season, God invites us to pause and examine our hearts, identify our sins, brokenness, struggles, suffering, pain, and sorrow, and humbly bring them all to the Lord in faith. He can deliver us from them and guide us on the right path towards His kingdom.

The topic that I’d like to talk about this morning is ‘When We Disagree’.

In many cases, when people disagree, they may become angry or defensive, and the disagreement could escalate into an argument or conflict. This could lead to hurt feelings, broken relationships, division, or even violence if the disagreement becomes too intense. Actually, we could experience this in our daily lives at any time.

How long should we suffer from this challenge? How can we, as believers, view, understand and deal with this challenge in a way that reflects the love and grace of Christ?

Today’s scripture passage is Romans 14. Paul addresses the issue of disagreements within the church.

Romans 14:1-23

1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,

‘every knee will bow before me;

    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.

15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 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. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Our Reality of Disagreements

People may have different opinions on political issues or social issues. Within the Christian faith, there are many different denominations and theological perspectives. We may have different preferences for worship style, music, or Bible translations. We may come from different cultural backgrounds, with different views, values, languages, or traditions.

When we disagree, it can be a challenging and difficult experience. Whether it’s in our personal relationships, our family, our workplace, or even in our church, disagreements could turn into frustration, conflicts, or divisions.

As people don’t make enough of an effort to understand others or try to find common ground, people become more polarized due to differences in opinions. They often slander and attack other people and consider them as enemies. As a result, there are increasing divisions between individuals or groups with opposing views on controversial issues in society. Is the church an exception? Maybe not.  

In Romans 14, Paul addresses the issue of Christians having different opinions about food and holy days. Some Christians believed it was necessary to abstain from certain foods or to observe certain holy days, while others did not. They judged each other and treated others with contempt. That is why Paul says in verse 10, ‘You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.’  

Each denomination, church, or individual Christian holds their own interpretation or view in terms of certain controversial doctrines in certain grey areas where the scripture isn’t clear. I don’t think I need to list those controversial issues here because these issues have been debated for a long time and are well-known within the Christian community. We already know these issues, and our focus will be on the issue related to disagreements on them.

Reasons for Diverse Opinions

Then, is having our own interpretation or view wrong or a sin? We don’t disagree on purpose. Actually, we like to peacefully agree with our brothers and sisters with a smile. Why is our reality quite different?

  • Each person has their own personalities, backgrounds, knowledge, experiences, views, and preferences. Their life situations are all different.
  • In our lives, the time or life stage when we meet Christ and come to have faith is different for each of us. It is also true that we all have different starting points in our spiritual journeys. Some may come to faith at a young age, while others may find Jesus later in life.
  • Life paths or ways in which God helps us spiritually mature are all different because we are all unique and God leads us in the way that best suits us. We are all in a different stage in terms of our spiritual journey.

When considering all these factors that shape people’s beliefs or perspectives, it is almost impossible for everyone to have the same opinions on controversial issues. It is rather strange to be able to have the same thoughts on them.

So, we need to acknowledge that disagreements are a natural and normal part of human interaction and society. Actually, we have the right to believe whatever we think is right. It is inevitable and not necessarily wrong or sinful for churches or individuals to hold different opinions on controversial issues unless we begin to judge others or treat them with contempt.

Wrong Convictions and Mistakes

The problem starts here. When people disagree, they often have a critical attitude towards others, clash with each other, even demonize them, or consider them as enemies of the faith. Paul says, ‘we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.’

They tell each other, ‘This is what the Bible says, and it’s obvious. There’s no room for discussion on this matter.’ I know they are serious, but my question is ‘Are you 100% sure about that?

Let’s look at some big historical mistakes made by Christians.

Slavery: Many Christians throughout history have justified the practice of slavery using religious arguments. They argued that slavery was allowed by the Bible and used this to justify the enslavement of millions of people.

The residential school system: It is a significant part of Canadian history and is widely regarded as one of the country’s most shameful chapters. It was primarily run by Christian churches, that were designed to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture.

Suppression of science: At various times throughout history, Christians have suppressed scientific inquiry and progress, believing that certain scientific ideas or discoveries were wrong and threatened their religious beliefs or authority.

Patriarchy: Christianity had traditionally been patriarchal, placing men in positions of power and authority over women. I know that this is still happening in some other churches.

These are just a few examples of the historical mistakes made by Christians. From our current perspectives, we may wonder how they made such serious errors that impacted the lives of countless people. You know, they were so sure about their interpretation of the Bible and their convictions on those issues at that time. They said, ‘this is what the Bible says.’ Now, we know that their interpretation or convictions were different from what the Bible says.

We can see similar examples in the Bible as well.

Jonah, one of the prophets, believed that the Ninevites were too wicked and did not deserve God’s mercy. So, he initially refused to obey God’s command to go to Nineveh and preach to the people there. He was so sure about his own convictions that he even refused to obey God’s command.

Pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ time had a strong confidence about their convictions that they rejected the Lord and crucified Him. They judged the Lord.  

Paul, before his conversion, imprisoned and even killed those who followed Jesus, believing that he was doing God’s will. He misplaced confidence in his own convictions. Of course, there are more examples in the Bible.

My question is, ‘Are you sure you are 100% free from making the same mistakes?’

It doesn’t matter how strong confidence you have about a certain issue. You still see things from a very limited human perspective through your own lens. None of us possess full knowledge or wisdom. We understand only a fraction of the truth. We don’t know all the facts related to an issue, society, or individuals. We don’t have a complete perspective of the past, the present, or the future. Only God is capable of such knowledge. Only God can judge us, and His judgement is right.

If you find yourself tempted to judge or hold contempt towards others because they don’t agree with you on a particular issue, you need to recognize that it would be like placing yourself in the position of God, which is sin.

The Way of Jesus

In John 8, there is the story of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. When Jewish leaders asked Jesus what should be done with her, Jesus said, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ One by one, the accusers began to leave, until only Jesus and the woman were left. Jesus told her, ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’

We can learn serval things from this story related to our topic. The woman broke the seventh commandment. When Jesus said, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’, they all left including the religious leaders. That implies that the accusers might break other commandments or break the seventh commandment as well. People are unworthy to judge others and are incapable of judging others. One of the reasons for this is because of their own sins.

Jesus was with her, protected and forgave her, and showed her grace and mercy. That doesn’t mean Jesus was ok with her sin or promoted her sin. He clearly told her, ‘Leave your life of sin.’

This story showed us two different ways: Jesus’ way and accusers’ way. Jesus’ way let the woman experience His grace and mercy and gave her time to think about what she had done and repent. Jesus gave the woman the second chance that we all also need as sinners. Jesus loved to be with sinners, talked, and ate with them, and embraced them in love and grace. He even sacrificed Himself for sinners on the cross.  

Our Priority Is Unity in Christ

In verse 17 – 18, Paul says,

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

Paul asks us to be more flexible in the area of our convictions, or disputable matters. So, we need to distinguish convictions from our core beliefs. We have core beliefs clearly spelled out in the Bible. We believe that Jesus came to us as the Son of God, that He lived a perfect life without sin, that He died in our place and rose again, that He sent us the His Spirit, and that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. These core beliefs are firm and unchanging.   

We know only a fraction of the truth. That means, when we disagree, our differences should be an opportunity to learn from one another and grow together in our faith if we can let go of our pride, be willing to admit that my opinions could be wrong, and humbly seek to understand one another’s perspectives, prioritizing our unity in Christ.

As we seek to navigate our disagreements, we need to remember that our unity in Christ is more important than our differences. We need to be willing to set aside our own preferences and opinions for the sake of the greater good. We need to prioritize peace and mutual edification and avoid anything that could cause division or hurt within the body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit Will Guide Us into All Truth

If someone were to say that Jesus is incapable of guiding His people on the right path or completing His kingdom community, it would cause us to feel upset, because our God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent. However, when we disagree, sometimes, we act like we don’t trust the Lord. We need to remember that He keeps His promises and never fails.

As Christians, we are called to be a community of love and peace, even in the midst of our differences. The Lord will help us and work with us for this call. When we disagree, we should seek the guidance of the Lord rather than worrying about it. We should be willing to submit our own opinions and perspectives to the Lord, even if it means admitting that we could be wrong or deferring to the opinions of others.  

We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate guide and teacher in all matters. Jesus promised His disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. We should trust that the Holy Spirit will also guide us into all truth, and we should always be open to His leading as we seek to build each other up and grow together in faith in all situations. The Lord will surely keep His promise with His almighty power in love.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: