“But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers… And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.'” Acts 15:1-3,7-9
“The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial.” Deuteronomy 10:17
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11
How prone we are to have a side, and want to take sides! We can be tenacious in our opinions, our alliances, our preferences, and in our zeal be unaware of the divisions we cause in the church, neighborhoods, society, even families, because of our narrow or single-view. Dissension is not a new problem– it began in the Garden, festered in the early church, and foments in cultures today. As God’s children, how are we to handle these challenges?
“When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’ And he said, ‘No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped. The commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:13-15
How? We worship the Lord of all, align with Him instead of a side, and proceed as His representative. We open wide the doors of our hearts to others in unprejudiced love, and listen attentively to all sides of a matter. We pray for understanding, and genuinely express affirmation and compassion.
Open discussion and respectful, civil debate lead to conclusions that enlighten, unify, and encourage. Sometimes there is healthy compromise, sometimes God clarifies Scripture anew. It is vital we be willing to place our rigid viewpoints, allegiances, and preferences on the altar and scoot around to look at issues from other perspectives while seeking truth and the mind and plan of Christ. (Acts 15:23-32; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 2:15-16)
Lord, let me never hold onto a side more tightly than I hold to You. Teach me impartial, gracious listening, clear speaking, and let all I convey be glorifying to You.