There will always be those in life we just don't see eye-to-eye with. The very fact we are each individuals, given to our own special talents and unique method of reasoning makes us "individuals". It is much easier being around people who all believe the same way we do, isn't it? There is less friction, everything going a little smoother. Yet, I wonder what WE learn in those moments of time when we are with someone who just "grates" at us. You know the one I mean - just never seeing things from any other perspective than their own. They "get our goat", don't they? Be truthful! You know they do!
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 MSG)
When those individuals are "fellow believers", those who have made a commitment to Christ, but still struggle with so much of the excess baggage or conflicting behavior of the past, WE have a hard time with them, don't we? We want them to be "fixed" the moment they come to Christ - but we forget OUR fix has taken how many years???? Most of US aren't even "fixed" yet! Paul reminds us of some very important things in this one verse from the book of Romans.
First, we are to welcome others who don't see things as we do. I wondered about this a little because sometimes "conflicting" thought makes for a mess, doesn't it? There is also something very revealing when their is conflict - conviction, concern, and compassion. The conviction of our beliefs is tested in conflict. There is nothing more revealing of the "stuff" we are made of than when we are in conflict with another. It is there where our "true self" is evident. If our convictions run deep, the conflict will do one of two things - give us an assurance of the stability these convictions give us, or reveal just how flimsy they are, despite our attempts to stand on them all this time. The concern we have for another person is also very evident in conflict. If we plow over their feelings and opinions, we often alienate them. If we take time to listen, really trying to get the "gist" of why it is they believe what they believe, we may just be surprised by what is revealed. It could be what WE need to strengthen our own convictions, or to help another move into a place of stronger conviction in theirs. Conflict also tests our ability to be compassionate with one another - to be tender and merciful in our responses and attitude.
Second, there will be times when they say or do something we don't agree with - it is a given. We can come to expect it. So, when they do, we should be prepared - not to pounce, but to stand steady and with open arms. I don't know about you, but pouncing seems to be much easier than holding my tongue! I want to respond with immediate answer - God often wants me to hold my tongue. Sheesh! This relationship stuff is kinda complicated, isn't it? Especially when there are differences in opinion! If you haven't thought about this, let me point out "to pounce" one must actually be "crouched and ready" to jump! A cat stalks its prey - ready to pounce when the moment is right. If we "stalk" those with differing opinions - just looking for the moment we might jump all over them - we are treating them as prey, not friends!
Last, we ALL have our own history! A history we must deal with - with God's help and the Spirit's guidance we might just rise above it one day! Not one of us is without a "past" - some of us have more colorful ones, but if we are totally honest with each other, sin is sin, so no one's past is without "color"! Since we each have a past to deal with, and this "dealing" takes time, isn't it wisdom to allow each other a little space at times? I think God wants us to remember the story Jesus told one day about the speck in our brother's eye which was compounded by the log in our own. We might see the speck as truly a "speck" if we weren't looking past a log of our own! Just sayin!