Love in Spite of Differences

Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

As Christians we are not only to love and care for others, but also for members of the household of faith. Sometimes we get so caught up in doctrinal disputes over peripheral matters that we fail to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Once there were two men, John and David who agreed on a particular interpretation of Scripture over a peripheral doctrine (one that does not effect one's salvation either way). John became friends with another man who disagreed with his view of Scripture on that matter. While they continued to disagree, they treated each other as brothers. But David became upset and insisted that John break his friendship with this other man or else see an end to their friendship. John sought to make peace, but in the end lost his friendship with David because he refused to condemn and ostracize this other brother in Christ who did not hold to his view of Scripture over the issue in question.

This story, unfortunately, is repeated numerous times in churches and other places where believers interact. A tear in the body of Christ appears whenever Christians allow differences over peripheral doctrines or beliefs to divide them.

In another story, there was a married couple that was not in agreement regarding a particular doctrine. They could have argued about it and hammered their views on each other, but they didn't. They made allowances for their different views of Scriptural teaching on that issue. They still loved each other in spite their differences. Their love for each other prevented division, and helped them to grow together in the Lord.

Believers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Even siblings often see some things differently. Those differences need not drive people apart and cause them to build walls against each other. It must be remembered that believers are one in Christ, not one in peripheral doctrine.

While there must be agreement in fundamental areas such as the gospel and salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, love must be extended to those who hold different views that do not contradict or diminish these truths. Doctrines that do adversely affect one's understanding of fundamental truths such as these must be firmly countered with the truth of God's Word, but only in love and compassion.

May the Lord helps us to treat each other with love and compassion in spite of our differences in peripheral or debatable areas, as the Lord loves each one of us in spite of our differences and imperfections. May we endeavor to be united in the love of Christ, and in praising Him for all He has done, does now, and will do for us!

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