BUILD UP ONE ANOTHER
“ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER”
Lebanon Christian Church is a part of a fellowship of churches that was first formed around 1820. Our churches emerged from what is known as the Restoration Movement. The Restoration Movement was a spiritual awakening that began to take place among Christians in various denominations around 1800.
The sole purpose of the Restoration Movement was to restore New Testament Christianity to the church. The early leaders of the Restoration Movement called upon all Christians to be united on the basis of Christ and the Bible. The movement even came up with a motto to promote that- “No book but the Bible; no creed but Christ.”
Another slogan of the Restoration Movement is-“In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things love.”
It is the middle part of that slogan-“in matters of opinion, liberty” that is at the heart of our next “one another” principle that produces joy and builds up the church. It’s the call of God for us to “accept one another.”
READ ROMANS 15:7
In Romans chapter 14 we learn that the church at Rome had some differences of opinion that weren’t based upon the Scriptures. One area of disagreement was in the area of diet. Some of the Christians believed it was ok to eat all foods while others thought it best to eat only vegetables.
Behind that controversy was the issue of meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. Apparently, some of the pagan merchants would sacrifice their animals to their gods before selling them in the market. So, it was possible, even likely, that the meat that was sold in the market has been part of a pagan religious ceremony. Because of that, some Christians, could not bring themselves to eat meat. Others said it was ok.
Another area of dispute was in the observance of special days. Some of the Christians thought that there were special religious days that were sacred and needed to be observed. Other believers felt that every day was the same.
So those early Christians argued over what to eat and whether certain religious days should be observed or not.
Against the backdrop of those controversies, Paul wrote Romans 14 & 15 and appealed to those Christians to be united. And our verse for today, Romans 15:7, is the exclamation point to Paul’s appeal for unity.
The principle of accepting one another is Paul’s prescription when Christians have disagreements that are outside the realm of Holy Scripture. It is what we need to practice when we have a difference of opinion with a fellow believer. That is what I want to speak about today. Accepting one another when we don’t see eye to eye on matters that are not addressed in the Bible.
Let’s read the verse again and then we’ll dive into the message: READ ROMANS 15:7. We first need to understand……
1.THE MINDSET OF ACCEPTANCE
What does it mean to accept one another? The word means more than merely tolerating someone else or just co-existing w/someone that you have a difference of opinion with.
To accept someone means to embrace them, to warmly receive and welcome them. The Anglican priest John Stott said this about acceptance: “It means to welcome into one’s fellowship and into one’s heart. It implies the warmth and kindness of genuine love.”
That’s the response that Paul says we should have towards a fellow believer that we may have a disagreement with. The context of Romans 14/15 assumes that Christians will disagree on extra-Biblical matters from time to time.
Bob Russell wrote a book on the life/ministry of the apostle Paul as it is recorded for us in the book of Acts. The book is entitled, Making Things Happen and it has a chapter entitled, “When Christians Disagree.” In that chapter Bob wrote: “Many times when Christians disagree it is not a matter of Scripture, but just a matter of opinion. We have different perspectives because of our background, experience and temperament.”
Christian people will have disagreements from time to time. That is to be expected. It is important to realize that and even embrace it in order to maintain unity. In the church there are matters of doctrine. And we must hold fast to what the Bible teaches. But we must also recognize that there are matters of opinion and matters of preference that the Bible does not address. And we need to be flexible on those matters……in matters of opinion the largest liberty.
It’s ok for each of us to have our own opinions in areas that fall outside of the realm of Scripture. What’s not ok is when we let our differences of opinion divide us.
What can be done to practice acceptance of one another and maintain unity and harmony with those we disagree with from time to time? Paul offers two things.
One thing we can do is to refuse to judge someone on the basis of their opinion. Here is what Paul wrote in Romans 14:13:
“Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another.” -Romans 14:13
Refuse to judge other people simply because their opinions differs from yours. Opinions are just that. They are opinions. An opinion is not right nor is it wrong. It just is. So what Pau is saying is don’t judge a brother or sister in Christ when their opinion differs from yours. Don’t think that you are right and they are wrong. Because you are not and they are not.
Paul goes on to say that, in this area of opinion, that we have to answer to God, not to each other. Savior of Humanity is not your job description nor is it mine. There is only one Messiah and it’s not you nor is it me. There is only one throne and it’s not for you and me to occupy and pass judgment from.
A second thing we need to do to accept one another and promote unity in the face of differing opinions is to refuse to argue. Here is what Paul wrote in Romans 14:1:
“Do not argue about opinions.” -Romans 14:1
What is interesting to me here is that Paul didn’t try to resolve the differences that existed between those believers. Paul does not take sides. He doesn’t say, “you who are on this side of this issue are right. And those of you on the other side of the issue, you are wrong.” All Paul says is don’t argue! Don’t major in minor issues. Don’t insist that others see an issue just like you do.
We’re not always going to resolve differences of opinion. We can discuss our differences. That may help us to understand each other and gain a measure of respect for each other and our opinions.
But we need to be careful. Problems arise when a discussion turns into a debate and the debate leads to division. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
We need to refrain from arguing over opinions. Is it possible to have an opinion without having a fit? It is possible to hold an opinion without becoming so opinionated that you are trying to prove yourself right and the other person wrong? Paul would say yes. Here is what he wrote in 2 Timothy 2:24:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone….” – 2 Timothy 2:24
It’s ok to hold an opinion. But it’s just as important to hold one’s tongue if giving voice to one’s opinion would or could lead to an argument. It is always better to keep quiet and keep a friend than it is to quarrel over an opinion and lose a friend in the process.
We may discuss our differences and that’s ok. But if at the end of the day we still disagree, let love prevail. Peter wrote:
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
-1 Peter 4:8
Since love can cover over a multitude of sins, surely love can cover a plethora of opinions. We can disagree with someone who loves the Lord just as much as we do. When that happens, we just need to love each other and accept one another in spite of an opinion you might not care for.
I heard about a lady who wanted to bring a monkey home and make it a pet. Her husband objected. He said, “You mean that monkey is going to sit in our living room? She said, “Yeah.” “You mean he’s going to eat at our table?” The wife said, “Yes.” He said, “You mean that monkey is going to sleep in our bed?” “Yeah.” He said, “What about the smell?” She said, “I got used to you. I suppose the monkey will too.”
You may not agree with someone’s pet opinion. You might even think it stinks! But you’ll get used to it. You just have to accept the other person and their opinion in love. We have an example to go by. Let’s look at…..
2.THE MODEL OF ACCEPTANCE that Paul gives us in Romans 15:7
Paul said that Jesus is our role model when it comes to acceptance. Paul wrote that we are to accept one another….wait for it….JUST AS CHRIST ACCEPTED YOU.
How and where did Jesus accept us? On the cross. Romans 5:8 communicates that to us:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8
We were sinners and thus, enemies of God. And yet Christ welcomed us with open arms as Episcopalians often say in their prayer right before the Eucharist: “He stretched out his arms on the cross.”
Jesus accepts us on the basis of Calvary. We come to him with nothing more than our admission of sin and confession of faith. He accepts us because of his wonderful and endless grace.
That is the Gospel message. Christ has accepted we who are sinners. Now we need to apply the gospel of grace in our relationships with fellow Christians. We accept those whom Christ accepts. To that end, we need to be gracious and accept fellow believers who disagree with us. Here is what Paul wrote in Romans 14:15:
“Do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” – Romans 14:15
WOW! Did you catch that? Because of the Gospel, because of what Christ has done for you and me, we should never look at another person with disdain. We should not look down on them nor put them down simply because they hold a different opinion than we do.
Finally, here is……
3.THE MOTIVE FOR ACCEPTANCE
Where is this acceptance thing headed? Well, it’s bigger than you and me. There’s something more important than our opinions that is at stake. What’s at stake is how other people view God.
Paul wrote that we are to accept one another because our acceptance of each other brings praise to God. How we treat each other reflects upon God. It affects our witness to the world.
Did you realize that you and I are advertisements for God? What kind of a message are we sending?
Let’s say you go shopping at the mall. As you are walking down the mall, you see a guy standing next to a cart. He is selling vitamins. He has posters around the cart portraying how you would look if you took his vitamins-sleek, chiseled, with more definition than Webster’s dictionary. But let’s say he couldn’t look more unlike the people on the posters. Let’s say he looked more like me. You are left to draw one of two conclusions: either the vitamins don’t work, or he didn’t take them. Either way you probably wouldn’t buy any.
We send a message to our community by how we treat each other. When we love and accept one another and are united as a church family we send out this very powerful, persuasive message that this Christianity thing really does work.
I want to share with you one of the often-overlooked verses regarding evangelism and outreach. It comes from the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not the Lord’s Prayer that we are so familiar with that starts out, “Our Father Who Art in heaven.” It’s the other Lord’s prayer. It’s the prayer that Jesus prays for all believers in John 17. It’s Jesus’ prayer for unity among all of us as believers. Here’s the verse:
“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
What is the one thing that will lead people to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior? Is it an effective outreach program? Powerful preaching? Great music? Jesus said it is our unity as believers. “That all of them may be one so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
In 2 Corinthians the apostle Paul states that God has committed to us the message of reconciliation; how people can come into a right relationship with God through Christ. Paul states that we are God’s ambassadors to the world and God is making his appeal to the world through us. That’s why our love for each other and our acceptance of one another is so important. It sends out the right message to our world desperately in need of it. Jesus put it this way:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love for each other is the most powerful outreach strategy we have as a church. I don’t know exactly how it works in bringing others to Christ and through our church doors, but Jesus says it does. I’ll take his word for it.
Alexander Campbell, a Presbyterian pastor, became one of the most effective leaders in the early years of the Restoration Movement. Few people held deeper convictions than this scholar, but few people offered more grace than he did.
In 1831, he wrote a letter to a minister with whom he had serious disagreements. The disagreements were not in the realm of opinion. They were in the realm of doctrine. At the end of the letter he wrote, “If you and I should never approximate higher to each other in our views (in other words, if he and the other minister never worked their disagreements out), I would nevertheless still love and esteem you as a Christian, as a citizen of heaven.”
That’s the attitude we should embrace. We should accept and embrace one another as fellow believers even though we may have our differences of opinion and different preferences. We should accept one another because Christ has accepted us. Our acceptance of one another will honor God and bring glory to Him! And all God’s people said………AMEN!
Christ Jesus has offered to accept you by his grace. Would you come with your admission of sin and confession of faith and receive his grace today?
Lebanon Christian Church
409 Yorktown Road
Newport News (Lee Hall), VA 23603
Phone: 757 887-5536
Nursery - High School
|Adult Bible Fellowships||Sunday||9:30 AM|
|Morning Worship Service||Sunday||10:45 AM|
Children’s and teen Bible School will resume in September.