In the previous blogs we have discussed some principles for exercising our Christian liberty. (You can find these posts here, here, here, here, here, here , here and here) While trying to follow these principles will require us to do a lot of questioning on our own, the principles are pretty easy to understand. But what happens when differences arise? How should we handle it when other people exercise their liberty differently than we do? This will be the focus of the posts this week. The majority of the posts will be drawn out of Romans 14.
In this chapter Paul is addressing issues of Christian liberty. As always, we have to keep in mind that the Bible clearly teaches us that some things are always right and some things are always wrong. But many things are neither commanded nor prohibited. Therefore we have the freedom to either do them or to not do them.
(wrong) | — LIBERTY — | (right)
As Paul makes clear elsewhere in his letters and in the book of Acts, he believes that Jewish Christians have the freedom to continue to observe the Mosaic Law if they want to. However they must not think it is necessary for their salvation, and they cannot impose it on Gentile believers. This was one of the main problems in Galatians. Therefore, observing the Sabbath and other special days and avoiding certain meats to maintain ritual purity fall into the category of the liberty.
To put it simply, if Jewish Christians want to keep the Sabbath and the Jewish dietary laws, that is fine. But if other Christians don’t feel obligated to do this same thing that is also fine. Both positions are acceptable. As Paul deals with this issue in the Church at Rome we learn how to handle deal with differences in our day.
Before we look at the principles presented in this chapter I want share what one commentary said that I think is very important. “Nevertheless — and this is a vital point — we cannot extend the tolerance Paul demands here to all issues. As we have noted, he takes a different approach toward people who are violating a clear teaching of the gospel. Such people are not to be tolerated but corrected, and, if they do not repent, are to be cut off from the life of the church (see 1 Cor. 5). We must, then, be careful to apply the tolerance of Romans 14:1 – 15:13 to issues similar to the one Paul treats here.”
In this chapter Paul gives us five principles for dealing with differences of liberty. We’ll look at one today and the rest later in the week.
Understand that there will be differences.
In a perfect world everyone would agree with me. But since we do not live in a perfect world there will be differences of opinion about how to exercise our Christian liberty, and even on what we feel is God’s best in our lives.
This is a fact that we must learn to deal with. There will be times God will restrict you in areas that He doesn’t restrict others in. There will be times where you feel liberty where others do not. Learning to deal with differences starts with learning and accepting this.
This whole chapter was written for this very reason. Within this one church at least two different positions had been taken about food, special days and other areas of liberty. Neither of these positions was heretical. Both were acceptable positions for a Christian to have. But there were differences.
In our churches and among our fellowships differences will occur. When these come up we have a choice. We can fuss, fight and seek to prove that we are right, or we can learn to keep these differences in the proper perspective and work together to advance the Gospel. Those who are spiritually mature are able to keep the differences in proper perspective and work together for the advance of the Gospel.
For further study, read Romans 14-15:13. What principles for dealing with differences do you see?
 Douglas J. Moo NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Romans