Summary: We are not all at the same level of spiritual maturity, and we do not all walk the exact same path with Jesus; therefore, let us not get disagreeable over opinions.
Illustration – The Hatfield and McCoy feud (1863–1891)
In most cases, when a dispute ends in violence there is a bit of history behind the dispute. Probably the most famous dispute in America was between two families living in the West Virginia/Kentucky area along the Tug Fork creek of the Big Sandy River. The Hatfields were a family of English origin that lived in West Virginia and the McCoys were a family of Scottish-Irish origin that lived in Kentucky. Some might say the two families’ differing genetics made it easy for a feud to exist. Of course there was also the fact that the Hatfields were prosperous and politically connected; but, the McCoys were considerably poorer and without political connections. In any event, historical setting of these two families made it easy for a simple dispute to turn violent.
The first real act of violence was when Asa Harmon McCoy, who fought for the North, was returning from the Civil War and he was murdered by a group of ex-Confederate Homeguards called the Logan Wildcats. Although, there was no proof that the Hatfields were involved in the killing, suspicions and emotions had been stirred up and they were never put to rest.
The actual feud itself was launched about 13 years later over the issue of who owned a particular hog. At this time in America, and in this particular area, it was not unusual for hogs to be allowed to roam freely. To identify your hogs you would notch their ear in a pattern, which identified your family connection to the hog. In this particular case, Floyd Hatfield had the hog, but Randolph McCoy claimed it was his, because the "notches" on the pig's ears were McCoy, not Hatfield, marks. Initially the dispute was taken to the local Justice of the Peace who was Anderson "Preacher Anse" Hatfield. He decided the pig belonged to Floyd Hatfield because of the testimony of Bill Staten, a relative of both families. Soon after this, Staten was killed by two McCoy brothers, Sam and Paris, who were arrested but later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense. This then started one of the most horrific family feuds in the United States. The long historic feud, with all its hate and violence and killing, demonstrates how we can let our emotions overrule logic and in the process destroy many lives.
The history of Christianity is riddled with religious disputes, which have led to violence, ranging from the Albigensian Crusade to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. As tragic as this is, the real heart wrenching issue is how easily we get caught up in all the little disputes, which may not end in violence, but almost always serve to weaken and divide the Body of Christ.
To all my brothers and sisters in Christ: let us stop lifting up our particular brand of religious behavior whilst putting down another Christian’s belief. It is a tragedy that some of us can get so excited about our unique belief, regarding an elementary religious principle, that we will elevate our belief to the position of being a salvation-defining doctrine or a requirement for fellowship. Can we not agree to stop this empty and foolish chatter about the words we use to describe something, or the days we chose to celebrate something, or how we conduct church activities, or any other human-fabricated religious requirement? Our devotion to these disputable matters has a tendency to take us captive; and, if the disputable matter is rooted in twisted philosophy or empty deception it is highly probably our devotion will damage unity in the Body of Christ and even weaken our own personal service. The solution is simple: don’t dispute over disputable matters: Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. (Romans 14:1 NIV) For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (1 Corinthians 1:19-20 NASB) There is absolutely nothing to be gained by disputing over a disputable matter.
The fact that we do not dispute over disputable matters neither mean the disputable matter is wrong nor does it mean we are sinning if we have a special attachment to the disputable matter. I may believe it is permissible to drink a beer and another Christian may believe it is a sin to drink a beer. Our differing beliefs, however, are not grounds for our condemning the other person for not believing as we do. Should I choose to not celebrate Christmas it does not justify my condemning those who do celebrate Christmas. I may use the term “Resurrection Sunday” and another may use the term “Easter;” but this is not justification for our refusing to associate with one another. In many cases, there is no sin in the observance or abstention of a disputable matter. Sin is always found, however, in our disputing over a disputable matter.