Thursday, June 19, 2014

Romans 16:17-19 -- On Choosing Unity over Division

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil."
Romans 16:17-19

I find it interesting that Paul tells the saints here to kind of stay out of it and avoid certain people when there are divisions and offenses.  It's not really typical gospel advice to avoid people... just evil.  And I think our tendency when we see this kind of thing, inside the church or out, is to think about it and pick a side.  And it's not a horrible choice to think things through, but maybe Paul has some good insight here about whether those investments are even worth our time.
Recently at the company I work for, some people that I know lost their jobs.  And several people are talking about whether or not it was "fair" and talking about why, could it happen to us as well, and many other things.  It's not a perfect analogy, but I think it is a little bit like what Paul is talking about here.  We spend time getting worked up about things and whether they were just or not and worrying about how it applies to our lives, and we kind of make ourselves sick over they "why" of things that we have no control over and which don't really have to affect us, rather than focusing on continuing friendship or helping someone who has just lost a job, or on being good employees or helping our users/customers.
Turning it back to the gospel, I'm definitely not saying that we should follow blindly or not understand our own beliefs, and I don't think that Paul is saying that either.  I think that he's saying that we can choose our focus.  We should avoid contentions, and not waste our time on things that don't serve God, but that just stir up trouble.  If things are important to us, pertinent to our salvation, or they affect our testimonies, then for sure we should study them and find the truth for ourselves.  But if not, then maybe avoiding the argument entirely is a good choice.  I love the "wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil" part.  We definitely don't need to spend our time studying and researching things that just help us know more about bad stuff.  With all that time, we could instead be studying something good and cool and that makes us happier... and that would be a better use of our time.  And in general, loving people and helping them is a good idea, but if all they are interested in is getting us to be bitter about some aspect of the gospel, avoiding that topic, or the really persistent person behind the topic, might be a good choice.
And of course, as always, let's be careful that *we* aren't being the bad guys.  Let's not stir things up or cause contentions just for the sake of argument.  Let's not ask others to waste their time worrying about things that don't matter or which cause divisions.  Instead, as it says in Romans 14:19, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

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