What is good…and what is bad?
In Christian circles there are plenty of disagreements about what are good actions and bad actions. Many times on the blog I’ve talked about many of these disagreements. What clothing styles can people wear to worship services? What beverages can people drink? What films, music, TV, books, magazines, can people experience? What political party and its ideas should we support?
The most recent examples of Christian disagreement in American culture are abortion and guns. During the Covid-19 pandemic many people expressed sharp disagreement about mitigation procedures, such as wearing masks, in church. There are so many disagreements in our age, and Christians can boldly declare that, “My view and choice is good and any other way is bad,” as if their perspective is not an opinion, but a fact. In any local church family like mine or yours there are differences of opinion.
Would it surprise you to learn that Christians have had differences of opinion about what is good and what is bad, including all the way back to Paul’s day 2000 years ago? Paul wrote about it, and I’ve written about it previous (such as here and here). For now, let me summarize. In places like 1 Corinthians 8 & 10 and in Romans 14 & 15, Paul provides what I believe is his clearest teaching about what to do when the people in a church disagree about what is good and what is bad. Why did Paul bring up disagreements in the church? Because there seems to have been a thorny issue in his culture, and Christians could not agree about how to handle this issue.
In the culture of the Greco-Roman Empire of the first century, excess meat from sacrifices in pagan worship services was sold in markets in many cities and towns. Some Christians said it was sinful to purchase and eat it because it had been involved in idol worship. Some said it was okay, that it was just meat. In the same church family, Paul reveals, there were people who disagreed about eating meat sacrificed to idols. How did Paul help the people solve their disagreement?
Simply put, he said, “Love one another.” When Christians disagree, let your love for one another guide you. If you feel free to eat the meat, be willing to express your love by abstaining from eating if your eating will harm your brother and sister. If you do not feel free to eat, be willing to express your love by not being judgmental of your brothers and sister who do eat the meat. In other words, being good means being loving when you disagree.
We can apply this principle to many situations in the church. Goodness means loving first. It means loving God first. There is a famous quote from an ancient Christian theologian who said, “Love God and do what you want.” If you are filled with love of God, you will live in such a way that you are pleasing to him. As his life more and more becomes your life, your life will be good because you are living out your love for him. The outflow of your heart will be seen in your actions and your decisions, particularly as you love those with whom you disagree.