Three college men and three college women are traveling together to a weekend retreat. The three women are vegetarians, the men know it, but stop for dinner at Five Guys. Now there are bad attitudes and judgements flying back and forth and the six students come to you for your counsel on how to resolve the conflict. What advice would you give?
Here is a sampling of the answers I have received from different groups:
- Go in separate cars.
- Stop at Applebees – it has a broader menu.
- Talk to the men about sensitivity.
- Help them understand each other’s opinions.
Nice ideas but none of them turn to the gospel for a solution. The apostle Paul faced the same situation in the church at Rome. He wrote, “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables” (Romans 14:2). The motivation for the dietary preference may be different, but the relational scuffle was no less intense. Romans 14:3 records that one group was despising and looking down at the other, while the other party was returning judgment and condemnation to the other. Hmmm – what a great witness to others about how followers of Jesus get along! Not.
How did Paul deal with the divisive opinions and resulting rejections of one another? He reminded them…and us…of the gospel, “for God has welcomed him” (Romans 14:3).
God’s acceptance of us did not depend on our do’s and don’t s. Or our opinions. Or any other of our behaviors. His acceptance and welcome of us as His friends was based on the work of Christ…and not on our behavior…even if it went beyond the gray area of opinions and was sinful. “but God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you are no longer a companion with them in love” (Romans 14:15, The Message). Could it be that the solution to every relational conflict is in applying the gospel?
As always –
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