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Differences of Opinion on Worship in the Church: How Should We Respond?
Definitions of "opinion"
1. Judgment or belief that is not founded on certainty or proof.
2. The prevaling and poupular feeling (public opinion)
3. Evaluation, impression, or estimation of the value or worth of a person or thing.
5. An evalutation or judgment given by an expert (medical opinion)
Opinions, opinions, opinions
Opinions have their place in life. I have more opinions than I know what to do with (although some would disagree, ha ha). Most often opinions are subjective and not completely trustworthy. And yet, there is no one in the world who does not have an opinion on something. What we do with our opinions is the important issue. In fact, Romans 14 talks about this very thing:
Verse one says “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. (opinions).
The whole chapter, and this verse specifically, is talking about allowing people to have their own opinions and not to use differences of opinion to criticize or condemn one another. I love how the NKJ version says "over doubtful things." Sometimes we think something is black or white and therefore think our opinion or argument is the right one. This creates quarrels and division.
"You can never argue anyone into the kingdom of heaven; you cannot argue anyone any where. The only result of arguing is to prove to your own mind that you are right and the other fellow wrong. You cannot argue for truth; but immediately Incarnate Truth is presented, a want awakens in the soul which only God can meet." ~ Oswald Chambers The Moral Foundation
The law of liberty
For most of my life I didn’t know I had opinions. I thought everyone else must have received a handbook on what is right to think, and for some reason I didn’t receive my copy. On the rare occasion that an opinion surfaced and I shared it with someone, if they had another perspective I felt stupid and ashamed for being wrong. Where I got the idea that I was wrong just because someone had a different opinion, I don’t know. By the time I was in my late 40’s, my ability to formulate and express my opinions became a common occurrence. It was empowering to use this freedom. As time went by, it began to take on a life of its own. I’m not wrong for having or expressing my opinion, it is how I use it and why.
Paul did have the handbook on this (God’s word, inspired by the Holy Spirit), and since it was published, I now I have my own copy. He goes on to say in chapter 14, “ One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. (vs
God is saying it’s okay to have a firm opinion (or convinced in your own mind, as Paul puts it) about days of devotion to God and food they eat unto God, or vice versa. If you feel you need to worship on Saturday, great, go Saturday and enjoy. But if someone is a Sunday worshiper, don't condemn or argue. Some people get all worked up about this issue. It separates and divides. Then, everyone's worship is tarnished because there is resentment of the heart.
He then says that if you are of the opinion that a certain food is honoring to God, then focus on that, not what the other is eating, because he too does what he does to honor God with thanks.
This isn’t about sin against God. He is talking about the way people worship according to their convictions. And then he gets to the crux of the matter: “So why do you condemn and look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
Bottom line is give each other freedom to do unto the Lord as they feel convinced to do.
How do you handle strong differences of opinion at church?
Seek harmony and love
We all have very definitive opinions on what worship and church should look like. Seeing people sitting in the pews drinking coffee once grieved my heart. I feel a worship service is a place to worship without distraction of food or drink. We have fellowship time for this. I let this upset me from sadness and grief, to anger and condemnation, and I allowed it to distract my worship time. I spent every Sunday seething. Other people are of the opinion that a pastor should only wear a suit and tie, and others were perfectly comfortable with more casual attire. Older people sometimes get upset because they feel the music is too loud, modern, and irreverent. Such opinions can turn into harsh criticism, and before we know it hardly anyone is focused on worship; rather everyone is focused on what others are doing that is different from what they believe is correct.
So how does a church resolve issues like this? I still am not crazy about coffee in the worship service, although hundreds of churches do it. But I realize now, in the vast scheme of things, it's not a hill to die on. What is more important to me now is how wonderful, how marvelous, is my Savior's love for me (and my brother's and sisters).
Paul reminds us: “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”
Now one could say that those who drink coffee in the sanctuary, those who wear casual attire, and those that worship with loud music are causing others to stumble, which Paul admonishes us not to do. But perhaps we could also see it as a stumbling block to myself and others when we start imposing our personal convictions on each other. It starts with me. If this were an issue of essential Christian doctrine, or blatant sin, that would be another matter. I am in sin when I argue, condemn, and focus on what others are doing rather than on God, who is good and holy.
In verse 20, Paul tells us not to tear apart the work of the church on such matters. There can be liberty to an extent, and grace. The world will see Jesus’ love if we in the Body love one another.
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- Christ Prayed for the Unity of the Brethren
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© 2011 Lori Colbo