Paul was meticulous in guiding believers to eliminate sinful practices: “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1). However, flagrant sin is not the only danger to church life.
Many disputes are not about direct violations of a command, and godly believers might have different opinions on a number of topics. When there are no direct commands, the issue is not a question of sin, but preferences in how to apply a general principle. Wrong attitudes can cause division, rejection, a critical spirit, a rupture of peace, and the destruction of personal ministries. Legalistic beliefs that focus on external or physical issues can result in man–made rules that breed strife, false guilt, judgmental attitudes, and disharmony.
If the commands are not clarified, there can be a heritage of legalism; disputes about hairstyle, makeup, dress, Sunday activities, music style, and so on are symptoms of spiritual problems. Only by the application of biblical principles will the church find harmony.
A person is strong in the faith when he can mingle with unsaved friends without being influenced by them and instead have a positive influence on them. A person’s faith is weak when he must avoid certain activities, people, or places so as not to be tempted to fall back into former sinful habits.
The command for the church is to “receive the one who is weak in the faith,” which means “to take into one’s company, or welcome.” Paul repeated the command: “Receive one another, just as Christ also received us” (Rom 15:7). Jewish converts had stringent dietary rules and special days, and they were to avoid anything even remotely associated with paganism. Gentile converts had a much simpler faith centered on the Bible and what it commanded, without adding any human traditions. It was easy for both groups to become critical of each other.
Differences in nondoctrinal issues must be respected without straining the “bond of peace” and unity in the church (Eph 4:3). Are you critical of others who have stricter convictions than your own or vice versa?
“Even though new believers in my church may have legalistic views or want to change everything, I vow to keep Your attitude of acceptance, forgiveness, and patience toward all believers.”
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