God’s Word, the Holy Bible, is our guidebook for how to walk in peace in each area of our lives. Last week, the focus of my blog post was on peace in our relationship with God. If you missed that post, here is the link.
This week, I’m shifting attention to peace in our relationships with others in the body of Christ. God’s will for His people is to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV) In practical terms, how do we do this?
For Christians, how to act in a specific situation is often black and white. Option 1 is obedience to a command of God’s Word, option 2 is disobedience and living according to our fleshly desires. But there are also many areas of our daily lives where right and wrong are not so clearly spelled out. These are areas where we need to seek understanding from the Lord concerning what He wants us to do, where with the guidance of the Holy Spirit we form our own personal convictions.
Once we have formed our own personal convictions and are seeking to live according to them, we need to understand how these relate to our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If God has shown us something is right for us, does that mean it is right for every Christian? Not necessarily. This week’s verses for the Perfect Peace study begin with Romans 14, which deals with areas of personal conviction, things which the Bible does not say in themselves are right or wrong.
How to live by my personal convictions yet not insist that others adopt the same convictions was one of the first lessons I remember God teaching me as a new believer. Some things God clearly says are right or wrong (sin), but in many areas the choices we make are between us and the Lord. We are not to force our personal convictions on others.
As God was teaching me this lesson, I was invited out to dinner with some dear family friends who were Christians but belonged to a church that tends to be rather legalistic in areas like abstaining from certain foods and gathering for worship on a specific day of the week, both areas mentioned in this chapter. I was asking God how I should handle this invitation. He lead me to Romans 14 and told me to accept the invitation, order only the type of foods they would be comfortable with me eating, and avoid the trap of trying to change their personal convictions.
I love this chapter in The Message – it makes this lesson so clear and easy to apply. Here is the Message paraphrase of Romans 14:1 which gives a good summary of the message Paul was trying to get across, and I’m including the link to the entire chapter below for anyone interested in reading more.
“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.”
Where God does not say one choice is right and another is definitely wrong, He gives us some guidelines in His Word to help us make decisions. Here are a few mentioned in Romans 14.
- We are to welcome other genuine believers in Christ with open arms.
- We are to seek peace and walk in love toward all of our true brothers and sisters in Christ.
- The forming of personal convictions is between each individual believer and the Holy Spirit that lives in the believer’s heart. I am not to attempt to do the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of my brother or sister in Christ.
- Once God has shown us what is right for us in these areas, we are to be fully convinced in our mind. God will hold us accountable for our own choices and behavior.
- Quarreling over personal convictions does not maintain peace among believers, so this is to be avoided.
- Judging others in areas where right and wrong is not spelled out in the Bible is not our responsibility.
- We are to avoid actions that would be stumbling blocks to others who are seeking to follow Jesus Christ.
Walking in love with others in the body of Christ, especially with those who don’t see things the way we do, can be a challenge. But with the truths taught in Romans 14 we have some clear guidelines in how to promote harmony and peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s begin using these to begin bridging some relationship gaps so we will be a clearer representation of what it truly means to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.