The church at Rome was composed of believers from many different religious, cultural and racial backgrounds. Because of this, there were a number of opinions in the church about what was right and what was wrong. There were many issues that were causing division due to the diversity of the backgrounds of the people and the traditions being practiced. There were some things, that because God had not given clear cut answers to, were causing debate and essentially causing major division within the body of Christ.
The question that arises when we are talking about debatable items, is: “What am I to do with them?” How are we to maintain unity when we have differing opinions on different issues? Some will deny that there are some grey areas while others will say that all areas are grey and that there are no absolutes. For those of us between the two extremes, how are we to relate to those who have different views on the so called “grey areas.” Please understand, however, that there are many absolutes in Scripture that give clear cut commands and clear cut doctrines. These must never be compromised, diluted or changed. But what about the areas where the Bible is not as specific?
Have you noticed that not all Christians are alike? I have been to churches where everyone looks the same, walks the same, dresses the same, smells the same, talks the same, and to be honest, it may not be the healthiest of circumstances. God has made each of us differently and for an individual purpose in life, and that purpose is not to imitate, parrot, or seek approval or acceptance from anything outside of serving Jesus, (Gal. 1:10).
What does the Bible say about our treatment of those who are different than us? How should we treat those who are not exactly like we are? Now as we read the following verses, we will find out.
A Biblical Perspective on Diversity
First, we are to accept them by not arguing with them. Romans 14:1, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” Did you know you never win an argument? When these verbal arguments occur people get hurt. You do not always have to get the last word in everything! Our perfect example of this is our Lord Jesus Christ. If anyone had the right to argue, debate, or correct it, was Him. Think back to how He handled Pontius Pilate…
Second, we are to accept them by not judging them. Romans 14:3, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” Paul uses two different people, from two different backgrounds that have two different views. One, practicing liberty, one abstaining from it. He has the opportunity here to set one or the other straight. What is he going to say? He simply reminds them, God has accepted them both. Our God is big enough for both.
Third, we are to accept them by not changing them. Romans 14:4, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” It is not our job to change people into what we want them to be, rather it is God’s task to transform them into what He wants them to become. We are not called to try to fit people into our bubble of what we deem acceptable when it comes to preference, when it comes to areas that are not clear cut. It is our job, our calling to preach the WORD. As we preach and teach the Word, and as we disciple people, the Holy Spirit of God will do the changing. So stop trying to make everyone look like you! That is something I must remind myself often. People need to be what God transforms them into, not what I guilt them into.
May God give us a revival of preachers, churches, and Christians who practice acceptance the way God has intended it. Not uniformity but unity. Striving together, not against. Working, laboring, and spending our lives not fighting those who are different, but working with those that are for God’s work—for the Gospel. We each have one shot at life and I refuse to spend it fighting good people, who love God but who happen to be different than I—being different is not a sin.