How Embracing Others with Differences of Conscience Protects Church Unity
It feels good to return to writing about the New Testament prescription for believers to excel in preserving unity in the church (Eph. 4:1-3).
In post #1 on addressing how judging one another over “gray areas” in the Christian life damages unity, I introduced the issue.
In post #2, I treated the gist of welcoming–Paul’s antidote for unity-destroying judging in the body. In this post, we turn to the all-important ground of welcoming.
The ground of welcoming has two parts: the gospel of God who has welcomed us in Jesus Christ and the judgment of God before which every believer ultimately stands or falls.
Each one will require its own post for adequate explanation.
The first part is so important that Paul says it twice, each time invoking a different member of the Trinity.
Why should neither the strong nor weak despise or pass judgment of the other? Rom. 14:3— for God has welcomed him. Rom. 15:7—the conclusion of the matter—therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you (emphasis added).
The grace for doing community well, especially the more demanding prescriptions—but in reality all of them—always comes from the grace of God in the gospel and His great love for us properly appropriated and treasured.
The call here in terms of the ground for obedience does not differ at all from the call to forgive and the ground for that impossible grace, if left to ourselves, in Eph. 4:32—Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (emphasis added).
In one respect this way of arguing by Paul is from the lesser to the greater. And here’s why. Consider Rom. 5:6-10.
 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (emphasis added).
All Jesus asks of us in gospel-shaped community is to welcome saved-by-grace believers with differing opinions on the grey areas of the Christian life. That’s the lesser.
How tough can that be (here comes the greater) for we whom the Father and the Son welcomed, received, embraced, justified, adopted, and loved though not just weak, but ungodly, sinners, and enemies no less?
Matthew Henry said it so well:
Can there be a more cogent argument? Has Christ been so kind to us, and shall we be so unkind to those that are his? Was he so forward to entertain us, and shall we be backward to entertain our brethren? Christ has received us into the nearest and dearest relations to himself: has received us into his fold, into his family, into the adoption of sons, into a covenant of friendship, yea, into a marriage-covenant with himself; he has received us (though we were strangers and enemies, and had played the prodigal) into fellowship and communion with himself.
Are you finding it difficult to get along with people in the church whose opinions about secondary issues differ from yours?
Nothing will help you more than sustained focus on the gospel–amazing grace that saved a wretch like me and you.