“Part of God’s design for the church is that it should successfully manifest unity in diversity. It was His intent that people with divergent personalities, nationalities, gifts, abilities, tastes, and backgrounds should become unified in Christ without sacrificing personal distinctiveness (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Colossians 3:11).”
“Accordingly, God does not view differences of opinion in the area of freedom as a bad thing. The inevitability of such variance of thought is not seen as a flaw in an otherwise beautiful plan. It rather represents one more situation in which the supernatural character of the church, and its observable distinctiveness as a living organism, may be manifested before the world (John 13:35; 17:20-21).”
“What God desires, then, is not uniformity of opinion but unity of relationship (Romans 15:5-7). And so, instead of trying to eliminate divergence of opinion, the Holy Spirit has given specific instructions to guide our response to it.” (Dr. Garry Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God).
Relate in unity with those who do not share your convictions
- Believers are free to establish their own conviction in areas of freedom, but they are clearly not permitted to condemn those who do not share their opinions.
- If God has not specifically addressed a behavior, custom, activity, or doctrine, we are not allowed to manipulate biblical data to suggest that God has been specific on the matter.
- On the other hand, a believer is clearly not permitted to ridicule or look down on other believers who feel constrained in areas of freedom.
These required attitudes must become matters of accountability in our Churches.
What about House rules?
An exception to the general guideline on debatable matters applies to those under authority (children under parents, citizens under governors, and members of organizations or institutions).
I call these exceptions “house-rules” or “rules of order.” They cover behaviors belonging to the category of debatable matters in a different way. Unless being ordered to do things that disobey God, those under authority are responsible to submit to the rules established.
- Children must obey their parents’ rules even on debatable matters (Ephesians 6:1).
- College students who choose to attend an institution must abide by the rules of their school even if such rules are not specifically addressed in Scripture.
- Societies and governments sometimes establish rules of order in areas not specifically addressed in Scripture. Since believers must submit to governing authorities (unless they are being asked to disobey to God), they must obey the laws— even on debatable matters.
It remains wise even in these cases to help those under authority to distinguish house rules from the explicit commands of God.
Groups of believers (like families) are permitted to establish in-house rules. But they are not permitted to judge the spirituality of other believers unless their standards are explicitly required by God.
If parents set standards for their homes in areas where the Bible doesn’t explicitly speak, children are required by God to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1). But other families in the Church (who do not share their convictions) should not ridicule them. And more conservative families should not condemn those who exercise freedom on debatable matters.