Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Extra-Morality 1: Church Divisions

A battle rages in churches across America, or rather between churches across America. Denomination is up against denomination as the church divides. Why? Not any doctrinal issue, per se, but because of insignificant differences in how one should live their lives.

Neither side is without fault in this battle between legalism and radical confucianism. Of course, these terms do little to actually describe the issue properly as they are extreme labels used by either side of the issue to paint their opponents in a negative light.

To properly understand these terms then, I would like to simply say that there are decisions each Christian must make about the standards by which he lives his life. Now of course, there are some items that are not open to discussion.

The Bible forbids stealing. This means that you cannot steal and be considered right with the Lord. Morality is very black and white. What the Lord says to do, we must do, and what the Lord says not to do, we must not do.

However, there is an entire area of life that is not strictly speaking, moral or immoral. I would like to consider this gray area extra-moral, or matters of conviction.

Looking at the Bible, we find no specific commands on things like what books/movies we should watch, what clothing we should wear, or whether dancing is an appropriate activity. We will be sure to find verses, such as Philippians 4:8 which can and should guide us in these areas, but they are open to interpretation. One cannot claim that these areas have a single right and wrong answer.

In fact, I would argue (and the Bible agrees) that these issues are decisions left to individual Christians that should be made after much prayer and reflection. In fact, Romans 14:14, which will be the theme verse for this series, expresses,
“I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean to him it is unclean.”

Now don't fret about the implications that might arise about relative morals from this verse. In context, this verse is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Indeed as we study this out, you will find that this verse is discussing the extra-moral standards I mentioned above.

The example Paul uses is whether one can eat meat. This example is not as relevant today as the examples of modesty, cultural enlightenment, and dancing that I discuss above. The point of this series cannot be to decide what is extra-moral and what is not. I must focus on how we deal with people who make different decisions about these standards than we would.

After all, if these are simply decisions each individual Christian is making, there are bound to be disagreements. And there certainly have been.

The problem is these differences in decisions has led to a division in the body of Christ. People are condemned for their actions whether they choose to be very strict or very liberal in their extra-moral choices.

Both sides of the spectrum condemn the other. One man has accused his opposition of "being more concerned about being right than people."

Now, I'm all for sharing your opinion on these issues. You have a right to share why you have come to your decision about extra moral concerns, but you have no right to condemn or separate yourself from others simply because they disagree with you.

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