Have you ever been in an argument where you were right in your opinion but wrong in the way you treated the other person? It’s like the proverbial “win the battle but lose the war.” What’s more important: Being right or treating people right? Paul addresses this same question in I Corinthians 8.
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. I Corinthians 8:1-3
Division in the Early Church
One of the most divisive issues of Paul’s day was the issue of whether or not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Some of Jesus’s followers thought there was nothing wrong with eating meat that had been sacrificed to gods since there was only one real God. Other believers, however, felt very strongly that Christians should not eat meat if it had first been sacrificed to false gods. People landed on different sides of the argument largely based on their religious background and ethnicity.
Division in the Modern Church
We could list hundreds of divisive issues for the church in our day. After all, there are 40,000 denominations! I find it helpful to categorize modern divisions in the church into three categories.
- Theological Differences: sovereignty of God in salvation, practice of spiritual gifts, baptism, etc.
- Ministry Philosophy Differences: worship style, means of evangelism, types of liturgy, etc.
- Cultural Engagement Differences: music, movies, dancing, alcohol, eduction, etc.
A simple study of church history shows that there have always been discussions and debates around these same three broad topics. Christians throughout history have disagreed on these things which is why Paul’s words written two thousand years ago are so important.
The Most Important Question
The question is not “who is right and who is wrong?” The better question is “how can we love each other amidst our differences?” Paul says the man who “knows something” (meaning has an opinion or conviction on the matter) does not yet “know” anything until he knows how to love the other person.
Paul says knowledge just leads to pride, and God resists the proud. Love, however, leads to growth, and God’s favor is on the humble. The greatest commandments are to love God and love people. So when we have disagreements with others in the Body of Christ, the greatest question we can ask is “how can I love this person or this group of people?”
Anyone who is married knows that you can be right in an argument but ultimately wrong by the way you treat your spouse. It would be far better for your marriage to love you spouse and lose the argument. Paul even says this much to the Corinthians.
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? I Corinthians 6:7
Why not rather be wronged than be defeated by our arguing against one another?
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.