<<disagreement, difference of opinion>>

While there will be differences of belief and values between people, the emphasis should be on what we have in common and endeavouring to live in peace with all, not focusing on controversies and what we don’t agree on for friction causes tension and is destructive to relationships (Rom 12:18; 1 Tim 1:3,4; 2 Tim 2:14,23; Heb 12:14). With frank discussion and the truth of God’s Word being the governing principle, a topic that had huge ramifications for the whole church was sorted out (Gal 2:11-21; 2 Tim 2:24-26).

The Bible’s advice is to settle misunderstandings quickly before they fester and grow into major conflicts (Mt 5:25). Sometimes it is necessary to address issues that are preventing oneness such as between husband and

Do I endeavour to ‘see’ the other view?

wife, at other times overlook the matter as in a few days it will all be forgotten. The church, not secular courts, should be the place to resolve disputes between believers, however Paul suggests why not overlook the offence in mature Christian love (1 Cor 6:1-7). We should not dare to question or argue with God (Rom 9:20,21).

The Bible gives specific guidelines for dealing with personal disputes (Mt 18:15-17). The first step is to go to the other person privately to clear up misunderstandings and seeking to resolve the issue. Sharing of the problem with others who are not involved is only slander and the gossip will create more damage. If this is not effective, take two or three other people who can observe and help to determine the proper course of action. Only on a rare occasion will a Christian seeking to walk honourably with God need to bring an unresolved matter to the church for their input. If after that there is still no positive outcome the 'offender' is to be excommunicated, meaning they are not to take part in communion or the life of the group so the negative influence will not contaminate the church fellowship. The goal of such discipline is not to be mean or cold-hearted but to condemn sinful behaviour and issue a call to change. Rather than tolerating clearly ungodly behaviour such measures must be taken, understanding a 'little leaven' (sin) can permeate a whole batch of dough (Gal 5:9). A good outcome was achieved when the person involved turned from the evil lifestyle and subsequently was to be re-instated in the church (1 Cor 5:3; 2 Cor 2:8). Disputes are to be handled with love, with the aim to bring restoration.

There are a wide range of views propagated today so it is crucial to clarify, if biblical commands and principles are being compromised or just my beliefs and opinions that are at variance? Disputable or non-essential issues are where the Bible does not give definite guidelines (Some are these are highlighted in Rom 14:1-23). In such issues we

Disputable matters should not disrupt Christian oneness

are not to judge or come under condemnation from others, knowing we are accountable to God alone while keeping a clear conscience and not causing others to violate theirs. Rather than holding strong views and convictions on non-essential beliefs and doctrines and trying to 'convert' others to our viewpoint we are to focus on maintaining love and unity in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). Attitudes of pride, legalism and judgementalism can lead to our non-biblical convictions becoming stumbling blocks in their path (Rom 14:13). Rather than squabble about trivial issues we should be united in spreading the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to the world.

See also: arguments, church discipline, compromise, conflict, confront, conscience, controversial issues, conviction (1), non-essential, quarrel, restitution/restore, submission, viewpoint.