Unity Over Agreement

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s
faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.
(Romans 14:1-2).
Like the Apostle Paul, I’m not interested in debating what followers of Jesus can and can’t eat or
drink. However, I am interested in what we can learn from the “posture over policy” response
that Paul teaches us in Romans 14. In fact, I’d encourage everyone to read Romans 14 in its
Paul seems to suggest that while there are disputable matters, followers of Jesus can still live in
unity with one another regarding the supremacy of Jesus! Paul puts a higher priority on empathy and compassion than on agreement in secondary issues of faith.
In today’s culture, you could read Romans 14 and substitute a slew of different issues for Paul’s
example of food and drink. We currently live in a fragmented “us vs. them” culture, and many
followers of Jesus are looking to the scriptures and yet disagreeing over issues. So how do we
follow Paul’s example and seek to create space to wrestle with the issues of the day while
embracing those who disagree?
Early on in Hope’s history, Pastor Steve and our leadership created some core values. (They can
be found here.) One of those values reads:
We believe in concentrating our focus on the major subjects of the Christian faith rather
than getting bogged down in minor issues. We do not believe we have the right to waste
time, energy, money or creativity on trivial matters when so many need Jesus. We want
to be part of the solution rather than the problem. (II Timothy 2:23-24)
We desire to hold unity in what is essential and empathy in what is not essential. Not because
these issues are unimportant but because our unity is founded on Jesus. While we may not all
agree on everything faith-related, we can come to Jesus and to His Church together in unity!
I would like to add that I believe we are better equipped when we live in a community of
diversity. Though the impulse may be to splinter and separate over debatable issues, there is
beauty in seeking to follow Jesus by learning to live with those with whom we disagree. Rather
than gathering into smaller groups of “sameness,” we are better when we seek to be a community of faith that practices listening and empathy while holding fast to the way of Jesus.
When I read Romans 14, I see the Apostle Paul encouraging a community to value “posture over
policy” and to be built on empathy, humility, and grace. This is not a position where one side of
the debate wins. Instead, it is a posture where we commit to trust and respect others and
prioritize loving over being right.
I’m grateful for Hope’s long history of emphasizing unity on the major subjects, and I look
forward as we press on together!