29 September 2015

Are You Arguing Over Principles or Methods? - Part 2

In part one (HERE) of our discussion we began looking at the difference between principles and methods. Principles being the basis for why something is done, and the method being how the principle is accomplished and how there are varying methods that different people can use, and it doesn't mean one is better or more right than another.

Often times, when we come to deal with someone in the Church body, we come at things from one of two extremes. In one extreme, we approach them in disagreement, basically looking down upon them as a weaker brother than us, and constantly attack their methods.

The other extreme would be to approach them in a manner that would be a warped view of love, in that we pretend we must never challenge or admonish them, or ever bring up a discussion on issues of truth. Both are extremes that we have to work to not fall into.

We are to abhor and challenge what is truly evil, while holding fast to what is good, while loving one another and always seeking to outdo them in showing honor. Can you imagine a church where this is truly going on – and everyone is actually fighting to show more honor to each other?

When we are brought into the family of God, God receives us in as we are. However, he does not then just leave us to our own devices, but he continues a work in us to mold us into the person we should be. Everyone who is received in is received in at different stages of life, and the work of the Spirit may be very different in one person as compared to the next. We must remember this, for the Spirit does not bring us in and make us all immediately mature in all things.

One method God frequently uses to help mold us is by the loving guidance and admonition of another member of the body. However, truly loving admonition is just that – loving. It is a challenge to our path or method, without ignoring the fact that various different methods are valid. If we are at the extreme view that we are not to challenge anyone, then we are breaking that unity by not being used as we should.

As Christians, we tend to have a work done in us by the Spirit, where something may be revealed as clear as day to us, and so we run off and begin shoving it in the face of all of those around us. However, we do not always stop and think of the practical application of the truth we have learned.
We may learn something and apply it one way, and then thinking that to be the only application for it, we seek to force others to conform to it – and this easily leads to disunity and often division. We must resist this temptation, accepting brothers where they are, and seeking unity and love in all things.

God accepts us, we are justified, brought into His family, and we are likewise to accept those others in the body who we feel differ some from our way. However, just as God does not leave us alone, we are to lovingly get involved in the lives of those around us, and be used to help with the wisdom we have.

That is why it is of the utmost importance for us all to understand the difference between methods and principles, so that we know how to guide others in the principles, while not harping so much on the various methods.

For instance, we know the Bible gives us a clear principle to study and stay in God’s word. My local pastor harps on daily Bible reading all of the time. He constantly challenges us to start an annual plan and stick to it. He does so because he knows it is a valid principle of Scripture.

Now, there are many ways to accomplish this principle. On our church website, we have a printable plan that can be followed to get you through the Bible in one year. That plan is recommended by many in this church who have used it, but in no way is it considered the best, preferred, or only method – or an issue worth debating.

The Bible doesn’t command us to read it through in a year. It just says to study and know it. The one-year plan is as our pastor calls it, Christianity 101 – the bare basics. Reading through it one time a year is about 20 minutes a day of reading. Some people may read more, I know many people who read it more than once a year, I know other who read it consistently, but not completing it each year.

If someone were to come in and start fighting with someone else over how long it should take each day, or how often reading should be done, or which translation should be used, or reading method preferences, or when during the day to read, etc. then that would be crossing the line into the methods.

We can see how this type of scenario is pretty clear to show us the folly that can happen when considering methods versus principles, but other scenarios may not appear as clear to us, and require a bit more understanding.

This of course does not mean that lively theological discussion should not be a reality. There are firm truths that we hold that are not part of the principle versus method idea. When it comes to doctrinal understandings though, it is imperative that wisdom, love and patience be applied – again, understanding that not everyone is on the same level of understanding.

Just because we receive someone knowing that God has received them, it does not mean that we receive them and shut our mouths to any further assistance in learning additional truth. Nor does it mean that we should think we know it all and cannot be approached by another brother and glean from their teaching and wisdom.

The Bible commands us to strive for likemindedness and unity, and this comes about by loving one another while seeking to approach each other in humility to discuss things of a doctrinal matter. It means avoiding being obnoxious, cantankerous, or losing perspective when it comes to these discussions.

Jump on over to part THREE