Disputed Matters

I think the reality of it is that it’s hard to learn and apply important life lessons “real time”, at the moment they are actually needed. Best case scenario is that you’re prepared for a situation in advance, have thought it through and have grounded yourself in the appropriate biblical principles before you need to be applying those principles. Case in point? Engaging with what the CSB refers to as “disputed matters” (Romans 14:1).

Prior to this last couple of years, how many of us really had to weigh in on, or make decisions concerning disputed matters of significance? Meat sacrificed to idols? What day is to be regarded as most important? Not really topics that we’ve had to deal with in “real life.” But dealing with masking up, or rolling up your sleeve to get a “strongly encouraged,” quick to market vaccine? Now, those are issues none of us have had the luxury to avoid. And talk about a disputed matter! Families split, churches split, friendships fractured — who hasn’t either experienced it personally or been up close and personal with those who have?

For many of us, Romans 14 became one of our “go to” texts on trying to navigate parts of the “COVID years.” As I hover over Romans 14 this morning, here are my main take aways from the past couple of years which, Lord willing, will help me be better prepared for the next time I’m enveloped in disputed matters (and, considering our present cultural reality, it’s not a matter of “if” but of “when” that’s gonna happen).

Here are the verses I highlighted this morning:

Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.

For none of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God.

(Romans 14:5b, 7-8a, 12, 22a CSB)

Wherever you land regarding a disputed matter, be firmly CONVINCED IN YOUR MIND. Disputed matters have a way of becoming emotional matters. When dealing with them, we need to engage the mind. Not that engaging the mind means everyone will consider all the same facts or come to the same conclusions, but that we will have done the work of working through the matter — engaging our minds, calming our hearts — so that we can at least articulate a reason for why we believe what we believe and why we’re responding the way we’re responding.

However you land there, run it through the filter that, ultimately, you LIVE FOR THE LORD. While our answers to disputed matters may have a way of dividing us, it is our common over-arching, sincere desire to live for the Lord which can offset its polarizing potential. As those who own Jesus as Lord and want to walk in a way consistent with His lordship, we then extend goodwill to brothers and sisters who are also seeking to direct their lives under the lordship of Christ — even if they end up in a different place than we do.

Whatever you do as a result of landing where you land, remember YOU’LL GIVE AN ACCOUNT FOR IT. Regardless of where you stand on a disputed matter, how you respond and treat others matters, as well. Paul reminds these Romans believers — a mixed congregation of Jew and Gentile with more than enough disputed matters to work out within the walls of their church — that having the “right answer” is far less important than treating others in the right way. The Bema Seat of Christ (1Cor. 3:12-13, 2Cor. 5:10) isn’t going to deal with what answer we arrived at but how we treated others who arrived at a different answer. How did we make every effort to leave at peace with others (Rom. 12:18)? How hard did we strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3)? We’ll give an account.

And perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned through this, wherever you land regarding a disputed matter, keep it between YOU AND GOD. I might discuss it, and even debate it with others, but I need to resist the urge to impose it on others — at the end of the day, it’s between me and the Lord. Honestly, when I’ve done the work, when I think I’ve sourced the best data sources, when I think I’ve rightly divided the word and applied the right biblical principles, I want credit for it from others. Even though I know it’s a disputed matter, I want to end the dispute with others acknowledging that I’m right. Yuck! That’s a no win. Instead, I need to keep it between me and God. Where I’ve landed, He knows. How I see it as consistent with my call to follow Jesus, He knows. How I’ve responded to others, He knows. And that should be enough. Forget winning the favor of popular opinion, when all’s said and done, I need to rest in doing what I do before God alone.

Much more to process here, but for a morning meal, and a morning brain dump, that should give a flavor of how I’m thinking about disputed matters.

By His grace. For His glory.

That’s all that really matters.


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2 Responses to Disputed Matters

  1. brent94380af445 says:

    You are right, there is so much in Gods word about this and the importance of seeking wise, Godly counsel of fellow believers. Not to seek agreement, rather in my experience to see where my blind spots are. Proverbs 15:22 (NIV) Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

    2Timothy is replete with how to seek counsel that is based on the word of God. Good stuff, Pete. Keep it coming. We appreciate you, your counsel, and a good morning meal.

  2. Audrey Lavigne says:


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