When Righteousness and Peace Kiss [1]

“Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” (Psalm 85:10)

Matters of Opinion, Matters of Expedience, Personal Habits

When determining the appropriate action on any issue, and when there is more than one correct way to do something, each individual must consider their responsibilities.  We should desire to strive for peace; to consider others before ourselves in humility; and to make decisions based on the common good for the body of Christ, the church.

Problems arise because someone disagrees with something that is a matter of opinion or expedience and wants to have their own way. Someone confuses traditional with non-traditional; scriptural with non-scriptural; or doctrine with opinion. Someone forgets the mind of Christ, and thinks their opinion is the only or most important one.

Matters of Opinion

The word “opinion” is not often found in the Bible.  Three times it is used in Job 32:6, 10, 17, and translated as “know.”  Probably the most familiar passage is in 1 Kings 18:21.   Elijah asks, “How long will you waver between two opinions?”  However, the idea and caution of enforcing one’s opinion on another is found in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:9-13).

Also, the duplicity with which the Pharisees lived their lives is an example of “do as I say, and not as I do.”  Jesus chastised them for actions that were similar to the cleaning the outside of a cup and dish, but the inside was dirty, filled with greed and wickedness.  Trying to force one’s opinion upon another is similar to the Pharisees trying to claim the most important seats in the synagogue or trying to load people down with burdens too heavy to carry.  (Luke 11:37-53).

Matters of Expedience

Jesus, when speaking with his disciples for the last time, told them that it was best that He go away so the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, could come to them.  (John 16:7).  Paul said, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial (expedient – KJV) … but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23).

Personal Habits

While something may be permissible, it may not be for the common good, or beneficial.  Life choices such as food, tobacco, alcohol, and too much of anything that is at the same time fundamentally good and bad, can be detrimental to our bodies.  (See 1 Corinthians 6; Galatians 5:16-6:5).  Wise leaders will know how to determine and disapprove such things with regards to the church.  Wise men and women will have to decide such things for themselves, considering their examples to children and young Christians.

A Matter of Conscience

Eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols was the issue in these sections of Paul’s letters, but the attitude of being careful of our participation in anything that would cause another to sin is the primary principle.  Everything that encourages another to do something that would be wrong for that person, or would turn anyone away from the faith, must be carefully avoided, not because it is wrong to participate, but to care for our “brother/sister” for whom Christ died, giving no occasion of stumbling in anything (2 Cor. 6:3).

In Acts 24:16, Paul speaking before Felix said, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”  Not only are we responsible to our own conscience, but we must consider the conscience of everyone else.  This becomes confusing because conscience is formed as a result of training, and many people have been trained differently from us.  What has been taught as wrong to one person may not have been taught as wrong to another. My conscience is not necessarily always right.  Your conscience is not necessarily always right.  We all are creatures with flaws, and we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2).

Selfish desires override our desire to consider the conscience of others. The weak conscience of others can be used by them as a whipping stick, thus empowering them to dominate us.  This attitude is not weakness of faith but the desire to control.

Sometimes I’m strong, sometimes I’m weak.  This applies to everyone.  The attitudes of love and mercy are constants that we should strive for at all times.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Col. 3:17).

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  Mercy triumphs over judgment!”  (James 2:12).

“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.  Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”  (Rom. 14:22).

 

[1] Excerpt from When Righteousness and Peace Kiss, by Sandra Mackey, Copyright © 2017.

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