Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Romans 16:17-27

Paul gives us a clear warning in today’s reading against causing strife between believers. The reasoning for this seems obvious, of course; as a Church we are supposed to be united in Christ, and if we get caught up in petty fights we’ll focus more on who’s right and who’s wrong than be concerned with what God wants for us in our lives, and even what God wants for the Church as a whole. So ultimately it’s best for the health (and sanity!) of the Church and its members if we all try not to antagonize one another—it’s the same as any family structure. Dinnertime becomes an agonizing experience if the twins can’t stop arguing about what color looks better and pulling each other’s hair. Similarly, the body of Christ can never truly represent Christ in this world if its members can’t stop fighting over what color’s more appropriate for what church season or how the liturgy should be properly conducted—and so on and so forth.

But don’t think that this means that we can’t have our separate opinions. Don’t think that this means God wants us all to just blindly agree with one another, and sacrifice all of our opinions for “cohesiveness” and “unity”. Notice that Paul warns against dissensions and offences—not disagreements or differences. There’s nothing wrong with having different opinions, ideas, or interpretations—God made us all different and unique individuals, and thus we all view Him in an endless myriad of ways. Just as we are unique, we all view God in our own unique way. There is no danger in that; God created us that way. The danger happens when these differences become arguments, and these arguments become fights, and these fights split people, families, and churches; hatred is generated instead of love, and God’s people can no longer work together or even truly love one another. This is the danger of dwelling on differences.

So while it is a blessed thing to appreciate one another’s differences, we should be careful not to dwell on them or stir up any ill will. When we stop viewing these differences as a result of God’s gifts of uniqueness and individuality to the human race, then it can become easy to see differences as flaws that must be corrected. But within the Church, there should be no ill will between its members; disagreements, conversations, and kind counsel are all well and good. But above all, we must live out Christ’s love for one another.

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