A quick read through the books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy make us thankful that we do not live under the Old Law. Instituted as both religious and civil law, it was incredibly difficult to keep. Throughout the epistles, Paul chastises Jewish Christians for trying to inflict the law on Gentiles when they themselves could not keep it. Romans 6:17-18 states,
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
We thank God that unlike under the Law of Moses, we are set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
To be sure, with this freedom comes commands. Galatians 5 says that those with a sinful nature (impurity, fits of rage, selfish ambition, drunkenness, and hatred, among others) will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Having said that, the New Law does not attempt to cover every human action but rather to measure everything we do by Christ’s example. The WWJD bracelets (asking, “What Would Jesus Do?) of a few years ago were true.
The limits of this freedom in Christ were issues in the first century and they have been ever since. In Romans 14, Paul discusses “disputable matters,” that is, actions that are not spelled out explicitly in the Bible. He uses the example of eating meat offered to idols, but we have our own lists that have split families and congregations. Here are but a few.
• Can a Christian go to war?
• What is the exact role of women in the church?
• Is it right to spend God’s money on buildings, audio visual equipment, etc.?
• Is it a sin to eat and drink in a church building?
• Do churches have the right to pool money for children’s homes, mission work, etc.?
• Is it permissible to use multiple cups for communion when our example is of one cup?
You may think that some of these are far-fetched, but each of these questions, as well as many others, have caused churches to split and Christians to never talk to each other.
While God expects for us to work out some of these disputable matters among ourselves, there is one subject about which he expects our absolute obedience. It involves our unity. John 17:20-21 states,
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Paul uses the example of the human body to make the point that we are all joined together in Christ. These and many other passages make it clear that God hates division among His people and commands unity.
As human beings, we are going to have different opinions in many areas, including some of a spiritual nature. It is right to discuss these points and come to a consensus as to how our church family is going to respond to them. Unfortunately, we know that Satan hates a happy church. If we are not very careful, he will use some of these disputable matters to destroy the Lord’s church.
Philippians 2:2 can be translated in many ways, according to differing opinions of the translators. Yet each reading calls us to be united in one purpose. Please take a moment to read several of these different translations and reflect on the unity to which the Lord calls us.
Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.
make full my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;
make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love [toward one another], knit together in spirit, intent on one purpose [and living a life that reflects your faith and spreads the gospel— the good news regarding salvation through faith in Christ].
Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.
Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose
then complete my joy by having a common purpose and a common love, by being one in heart and mind.
Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.
fulfil my joy, that ye may think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking one thing;
fill-up my joy, which is that you be thinking the same thing, having the same love, united-in-spirit, thinking the one thing,
Fulfill ye my joy, that you may be of one mind, having the same charity, being of one accord, agreeing in sentiment.
then do what will make my joy complete: Agree with each other, and show your love for each other. Be united in your goals and in the way you think.
Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy, do make my best hope for you come true! Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.