First, we are not always gracious in the way we talk about secondary issues. Most Christians speak kindly and calmly about their convictions. But sadly it often feels like the less important the issue the more intensely someone will hold to it. We make up for the lack of gravity surrounding the issue by promoting that issue in the gravest possible terms. And even if we are right and someone else is dead wrong we should still correct our opponents with gentleness and grace (2 Tim. 2:25), not with hand grenades.
Second, some of us have never considered that certain issues in the Christian life belong in a Romans 14 category. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in polemics. I believe in dying on some hills. I believe in standing fast on doctrine, even on “non-salvation issues.” But on some matters we should say with Paul, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5). And sometimes we must ask, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother?” After all, “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (14:10-11). It’s okay on some matters (not all!) for Christians to agree to disagree (even if you know you’re right like Paul did!). It’s not a failure of theological nerve to recognize that some good believers we’ll make different decisions than other good believers. The mature Christian can hold strongly to his opinions without insisting strongly that all other Christians do the same.
A third problem is that some Christians inquire too early and too often about their particular hot-button issues. When a brother visiting the church for the first time asks where I stand on Rushdoony, I’m a little freaked out. It’s like taking a girl out on a first date and asking if her parents have digital cable. What?! Don’t you want to know a few other things first? In checking a church I hope you’d be interested to hear about the role of prayer, the importance of missions, the understanding of the gospel, the integrity of the leaders, their view of Scripture, and a dozen other things before launching into the rareified air of Rushdoony. Besides, I would also hope visitors, as a matter of courtesy, would not land at a church ready to insist on items 16-25 on their theological checklist.
Finally, we must be careful our passions are not out of proportion. There is no problem with Christians who feel strongly about schooling, the placement of the congregational prayer, or the frequency of communion. The problem is when our passion for these issues exceeds our passion for the gospel, for the cross, for the lost, for the afflicted. Not every issue matters as much as every other issue. Not every position deserves out fieriest passion. Save the big guns for the big ones. Get the heart pounding for the doctrine of the Trinity or penal substitution or God’s sovereignty. If your “thing” is Christmas trees or the kind of beverage in the communion cup, it’s time to get a better “thing.” The Christian life allows for lots of passion, discourse, and detailed application—as long as we don’t get everything out of whack.
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