03 October 2015

Are You Arguing Over Principles or Methods? - Part 6

This is the final part of our series on principles versus methods. Be sure to read the first five parts before continuing.

Principle: mothers are to feed their children. Methods: scheduled feeding or not – bottle feeding or not.

Principle: we should be good stewards of our body. Method: working out or not, eating junk or not, juicing or not, etc.

Principle: children are a blessing from the Lord. Method: birth control or not, planned pregnancy or not, natural child birth or not, hospital or not, etc.

Principle: modesty is a Christian virtue. Method: to wear make-up or not, jewelry or not, bathing suits or not, etc.

Hopefully you can see by now the difference between principles and methods. Churches or people who fight or split over methods are just wrong. People who go as far from one extreme to the other are missing the point. While the principle should steer you clear of caking on makeup and jewelry, and wearing provocative clothing, it should likewise not be used as a justification for looking frumpy.
We need to stop and look and realize just how bound we are by the pressure of our day. We need to stop seeking to strain out a gnat and swallow the camel. Our temptation is to reason something like “If they were really committed, they would employ my method. My method is the preferred method of choice among everyone I know that are sold out and dedicated.”

We have to first understand the difference in methods and principles, and we have to focus on the principle. We may differ greatly on the method, but it is amazing how many things will work themselves out if we keep the focus and emphasis on the principle. If you gravitate right to the method, it becomes this gnat-strangling controversy over stuff that the Bible does not directly address.

For instance, if someone says “I want to prove birth control is a sin” - or maybe they want to prove to prove the opposite - it is a pretty peripheral issue scripturally speaking. However, if I want to prove the principle that children are a blessing, you can’t hardly turn around in scripture without running into text that prove that – so focus at hammering away on the principle, and let the methods resolve themselves.

So, if you are fully convinced on an issue – that is a good thing. But if there is any occasion for troubling others for whom Christ died, then you should keep your convictions to yourself. At the same time, know your own heart. There are many ways to steer a conversation into trouble without overt comments. “I don’t know why she got so defensive….all I said was…”

We have to pray for a love of peace, and strive for humility of mind, and we have to weight these things. We have to know that tithing mint and dill and cumin is a good thing – Jesus did not condemn that – being scrupulous in details is a good thing. Choosing your own methods is a good thing.

Going back to the birth control illustration, people may be quick to assume that an older family with only a couple kids – or maybe even no kids - had some conviction for a positive view of birth control and chose to only have a couple or none rather than allowing God to bless them with more. If you don’t mind your own business, or choose to assume the worst, you may say, “oh, she must be a liberal.”

That could be way off the mark – maybe that was all God gave them, and they wanted more, but did not have them. It could be that the husband has to comfort his wife nightly because she can’t have children, and then some busy body in church comes up to her in church and says “I can’t believe you and your husband aren’t having any children – are you a career women or what?” The women barely makes it to the car before bursting into tears, and you, helpful Christian, chased her there.

It is amazing what we do to each other at times. We really need to stop and think before we speak. Are we speaking in love and humility? Do we seek to find the principles of the matter rather than focusing on the methods? Are we seeking to build one another up, or strike down?

In all instances, if we feel we must speak up, may we learn to think before we speak. May we always seek to use biblical wisdom and not be led by our own understanding. May we always seek to focus on the principles, and not the methods. And May we always strive to:
Love one another with brotherly affection. [and] Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom. 12:9-10 ESV)