Romans 16:17 – I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
Romans 14:1 – As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
The question as we come to this section of Romans is, how can two Bible-believing Christians co-exist who have different “lines” of what’s “right” or “Christian”?
I like to look at it in terms of national borders versus state borders. National borders are those things you have to believe in to be a Christian and, once you’ve crossed over those, you’re no longer a Christian. State borders are issues we can disagree on while still remaining friends, going to different churches, and both remaining Christians.
For example, when our kids were little, we traveled a lot as a family both nationally and internationally when I would go somewhere to speak. It was super fun to be able to bring my family with me while I worked.
The kids quickly learned that international travel is difficult. You have to have your passport, wait in line, go through customs, security checkpoints, someone with a uniform is going to ask you questions, they’ll stamp your passport and then you can enter the country.
Then sometimes, we would take vacations or trips within the United States, and we would load up the car and hit the road. I’ll never forget, on one occasion, the kids were all little and they were in the backseat, and we passed one of those signs that tells you you’re moving from one state to another. And I said “Hey kids! Look, we’re going into another state!” And one of them said “Don’t we need to do something?” Because they’re used to going through security, getting out your passport, and filling out a form and I’m like “Nope, we don’t even need to pump the breaks.”
Years later, as my kids were growing up and meeting other Christians from other churches, traditions, and denominations, they see that God has us doing things one way and has others doing things a different way. And what I told them is that it was like when we were traveling. There are national borders, much like doctrine, that if you cross over it, you’re in a different country, or a different religion. On the other hand, there are state borders, or opinions, and that’s just different Christians doing things differently.
The moral of the story is that there’s a difference between doctrine or Biblical truth and our opinions or preferences. Many churches and Christians divide over simple opinions, but the Bible call us to live among each other as fellow believers.
If you disagree on a national border or boundary, you may need to reset your relationship. But, if you disagree on a state border or boundary, you need to love each other and have grace for one another in your differing viewpoints.
Are there people in your life you disagree with on “national borders” and, if so, how should your relationship with them possibly look different? Are there people in your life you disagree with on “state borders” and, if so, how can you love them and remain in relationship with them?
To find the free Romans 12-16 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.