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Summary: There is no room in the Church for legalism. In love, we must get along with (and be more understanding of) fellow believers since we are all at different levels of understanding in our faith journey.

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WHEN IT COMES TO LEGALISM, I LIKE WHAT AUTHOR, MAX LUCADO, WROTE WHEN HE SAID, “LEGALISM HAS NO PITY ON PEOPLE. LEGALISM MAKES MY OPINIONYOUR BURDEN, MAKES MY OPINION YOUR BOUNDARY, MAKES MY OPINION YOUR OBLIGATION.”

I LIKE THAT! WE HAVE ALL BEEN, AT SOME POINT, NOT ONLY A WITNESS TO, BUT THE RECIPIENT OF LEGALISM. SADLY, I AM ALL TOO CERTAIN WE HAVE HAD MOST OF IT WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE CHURCHES WE HAVE ATTENDED THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF LIFE.

WE’VE PROBABLY HEARD IT ALL: YOUR HAIR IS TOO LONG, YOUR SKIRT IS TOO SHORT, YOU CAN’T DANCE, YOU CAN’T GO TO MOVIES, YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING ON SUNDAYS. WE COULD GO ON WITH THE LIST OF “DON’TS” WE’VE HEARD IN OUR LIFETIME.

IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAT A LOT OF LEGALISM COMES FROM THE STRONG AND DEEP CONVICTIONS WE HOLD DEAR. WE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT OUR FAITH AND WOULD HOPE OTHERS WOULD SUBSCRIBE TO WHAT WE BELIEVE AND WHY WE PRACTICE IT.

BUT, IF WE WILL BE HONEST, WE WOULD SOON FIND THAT A LOT OF THE FRUSTRATIONS WE’VE ENCOUNTERED HAVE NOT BEEN OVER WHAT PAUL REFERS TO IN VERSE ONE AS AUTHENTIC “DISPUTABLE MATTERS.”

WHAT WE SOMETIMES END UP FUMBLING OVER ARE ISSUES AND MATTERS THAT PERTAIN TO OUR PERSONAL TASTES AND PREFERENCES. WE ARE PRONE TO DIVIDE AND SPLIT OVER PREFERENCES OF WHAT WE WANT AND HOW WE WANT IT.

WHAT PAUL IS SPEAKING ABOUT, WHEN HE SAYS DISPUTABLE MATTERS, ARE THOSE THINGS DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS OF INTERPRETING THE MEANING OF SCRIPTURE AND DOCTRINES ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION.

CHRISTIANS MUST AVOID ARGUING AND FIGHTING OVER MATTERS OF OPINION. DIFFERENCES SHOULD NOT BE FEARED OR AVOIDED, BUT ACCEPTED AND HANDLED WITH LOVE. WILL WE ALWAYS AGREE? NO! BUT, THROUGH SHARING IDEAS WE CAN COME TO A FULLER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES.

PAUL IS SAYING THAT OUR APPROACH SHOULD BE TO ACCEPT, LISTEN TO, AND RESPECT THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS. DIFFERENCES OF OPINION NEED NOT CAUSE DIVISION. THEY CAN BE A SOURCE OF LEARNING AND CAN ENRICH OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH OTHER. I LIKE THE MUCH QUOTED STATEMENT, “IN ESSENTIALS, UNITY, IN NON-ESSENTIALS LIBERTY, BUT IN ALL THINGS CHARITY.

I THINK THIS IS SOMETIMES THE BEAUTY OF DENOMINATIONS. EACH ONE HAS ITS OWN LITURGY, TEACHINGS, PRACTICES AND STYLES OF WORSHIP THAT ARE UNIQUELY DESIGNED TO MEET THE NEEDS OF ALL THE VARYING LEVELS OF FAITH DEVELOPMENT.

I ALWAYS USE THE ANALOGY OF “LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE” TO COMPARE THE CHURCH WITH THE ONE-ROOM SCHOOL HOUSE. ALTHOUGH THERE IS THE ONE TEACHER (PASTOR), THE ROOM IS FILLED WITH CHILDREN FROM KINDERGARTEN TO HIGH SCHOOL. THE SAME IS TRUE FOR CHURCHES TODAY. OUR CHURCH IS FILLED WITH PEOPLE WHO COME FROM VARIOUS LEVELS OF FAITH.

FOR SOME, WE HAVE BEEN A CHRISTIAN FOR MANY YEARS. SOME OF US ARE IN A STATE OF EXPLORING AND HAVE NOT YET MADE THE STEP OF FAITH, WHILE OTHERS HAVE, BUT JUST RECENTLY ACCEPTED CHRIST AND HAVE A LOT TO LEARN.

SO, IN OTHER WORDS, WE HAVE ELEMENTARY CHRISTIANS, MIDDLE-SCHOOL AND HIGH SCHOOL CHRISTIANS, AS WELL AS COLLEGIATE AND DOCTORATE CHRISTIANS. WE ALL PROFESS OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, BUT WE ARE ALL AT DIFFERENT LEVELS OF UNDERSTANDING ABOUT OUR FAITH, SCRIPTURE, TRADITIONS, AND THE WORKINGS OF OUR PARTICULAR DENOMINATION.


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