Convictions & Choices, part 2: What to Do When We Hold Opposite Perspectives?

In this series about convictions, we’ve talked about:

And in that last article, we left off at that pesky place where we come to a different conviction than someone else in the Body of Christ. So what do we do then?!?

convictions, choices, Romans 14

Unlike being under the Jewish law, where 600+ rules guided daily life (and many more rabbinical directives beyond those rules gave even more specification to what was/wasn’t allowed), as believers under grace, we may often find ourselves in biblical “gray areas,” where there may be helpful guiding principles, but where the exact rules/lines seem fuzzy and unclear.

The beautiful thing is that God foresaw this difficulty of life under grace rather than Law… He provided for it in His Word in places like Romans 14. When we take our cues from passages like this, we realize we can hold a completely different– and even a completely opposite– conviction from another believer. Romans 14 gives us instruction to:

  • not quarrel over opinions
  • not despise those who see things differently
  • not pass judgment, but instead
  • let God do the judging
  • each be fully convinced in our *OWN* minds
  • focus on living to the Lord, rather than to self
  • remember that we will each give an account before God
  • be more concerned about loving and not offending our sister, than about judging her
  • never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a sister
  • walk in love, first and foremost
  • pursue peace & mutual upbuilding
  • only do what we can do from faith.

It is not uncommon to see forums, bloggers, or articles that are more known for what they are *against* than what they are for… articles written bashing this book, that ministry, this or that parenting philosophy. As believers, that is not what we are to be about.

As fellow believers, we are not to “quarrel over opinions.” Nor are we to hold our convictions so tightly that we fail to LOVE PEOPLE who are on the opposite side of that conviction.

GET CLEAR ON THE ESSENTIALS & STOP CHURNING ABOUT NON-ESSENTIALS

We need to be very very clear about what are the “essentials”… and thus, we need to be clear about areas of conviction and not raise those things to top-tier priority in our hearts and minds.

What are the essentials?

  • The Gospel.
  • Who Jesus is, and that He is the only way to Heaven.
  • That we are saved by grace, not works.
  • Things explicitly, unquestionably, CLEARLY outlined in Scripture (C.S. Lewis sought to clarify these things in a book called Mere Christianity)

Too often, as we live out a particular conviction, it clutches our hearts and we long to feel validated and affirmed in that choice. The conviction becomes idolatrous. We continually seek out research, examples, opinions, books, articles, and more to validate our conviction. We seek to surround ourselves with people who see that issue as we do. We become combative (inwardly, if not outwardly) toward people who see it opposite from us. We churn about it, and attempt to convince everyone around us to live life the same way.

We are not at rest about it, but continue to be filled with anxious churning about it.

SEEK TO BE FULLY CONVINCED

While Romans 14 makes clear that we are to be fully convinced about the choices & convictions we make, at the same time, we are to hold those things loosely enough that we do not offend or judge our brothers and sisters in Christ who, in faith, do completely opposite things.

So when we churn and seek approval, I think it reveals that we are actually not yet to the place of being “fully convinced in our own mind.” Instead of being at peace, we are revealing our own uncertainty about our convictions when we:

  • inwardly churn over someone else’s “wrong” decision in a scriptural gray area
  • fail to see ANY scriptural gray areas, and expect our “black” to be everyone else’s “black,” and our “white” to be everyone else’s “white,” without exception
  • see our own choices in gray areas as more righteous, more full of faith, and others’ as less righteous, and less faithful
  • churn over whether or not someone else is judging us
  • churn with judgments over someone else
  • refuse to be silent when “that” issue is discussed, because we can’t afford to lose, or bear the thought that our “side” lost the argument

One of the things I love about Romans 14… and I love so many things about it… but one of the things I love is the beautiful irony that it tells us “each one should be fully convinced”… and this is what allows for peace in relationships in the Body.

Does it seem ironic to you, too? To me, it seems like the exact OPPOSITE would be true: that by being “fully convinced” of opposite convictions, it would produce division rather than unity and peace.

But truly, by each of us coming to a place where we are no longer churning and needing to seek other people’s affirmation or feel badly about other people’s disagreement… THAT is the place when we have finally come to a conviction about something. We are at rest. We are no longer churning and anxious and stressed and worried about what people are thinking and wondering if they’re judging us, nor are we sitting around judging them, churning over THEIR choices, worried, stressed about everything they’re doing.

The picture of Romans 14 is that we’re fully convinced in our ability to do or not do that thing that is a gray area conviction, standing in the light of our Savior, able to walk in peace and love our brother more than our rules.

We don’t have to flaunt our freedom or brag about our strictness. We just get to live life at peace, and allow others to do so as well… all of us fully convinced, even if (like the examples given in Romans 14) we’ve come to completely opposite points of view. And all the while, our love is covering those differences and enabling us to serve one another, rather than viciously attack and despise one another (in our mind, actions, words, or attitudes).

KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR OWN PAPER

The Scriptural directives in Romans 14 remind me of that old saying in school: “keep your eyes on your own paper”… do you remember that saying? The funny thing about it is, if you followed that saying, not only did it protect you from “cheating” but it also protected you from copying someone else’s WRONG answers.

So, for example, in regard to birth control & family size, I don’t want to look too closely at what Suzie-small-family-mom is doing/saying, or what Linda-large-family-mom is doing/saying. I don’t want my convictions to be fueled by things outside of God’s Word & the authorities and wisdom-speakers He’s placed in my life.

If Suzie or Linda says something that particularly resonates or supports what God is already doing or saying in my life, then I’ll embrace and listen to that… but I can’t let someone else’s fiery opinions FOR or AGAINST something be what convinces me. Someone else’s GREAT job, or CRAPPY job, at motherhood shouldn’t what motivates me. I can’t let someone else’s stricter convictions, or someone else’s less strict convictions be what fuels my days.

Those things might sharpen or clarify why I’m doing what I’m doing, in minor mid-course adjustment sort of ways, but it can’t be the foundation for why we do what we do.

LET GOD’S WORD CONVINCE YOU

Rather than looking to someone else’s convictions, look to God’s Word. He is our Good Shepherd. His voice will guide us. He does not desire for us to be fuzzy or unclear about His ways.

As you read, don’t just look for a “do x” or “do y” sort of directive. That won’t exist in a gray area. Look for the ways that your Shepherd thinks and guides you in a particular area. Whatever the topic, consider His wisdom in regard to that area… look for larger principles by which to guide your path. Look to people who did it well, and who did it poorly.

Be fully convinced.

But don’t let it be because of someone else’s opinion… let it be because of His Word. I believe THIS is the way to peace with your Brothers and Sisters in Christ, even those who have come to completely opposite points of view from yours.

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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5 Responses

  1. Kondwani says:

    Another great post! My comment is that there are times when it is not so much ‘validation’ that one might seek, but more along the lines of affirmation or encouragement. I appreciate there might be a fine line there. But sometimes, being ‘fully convinced in one’s own mind’ leads to a choice which is hard work and at times lonely (I think of home educating as an example – richly rewarding, to me unquestionably the right thing for our family, but sometimes really tough! And a particular challenge can be opposition from those around you). These are times when we seek encouragement – cf Hebrews 10 ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds’. One way I would seek encouragement is to find like-minded individuals (Christian home educators meet ups for example, or spending time with a friend who has a similar stance), or to read helpful, encouraging material (such as your blog). But how do I know whether I am doing this for unhealthy validation, or whether it is a normal and healthy need and response? (The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?)

    • Jess Connell says:

      GREAT observation Kondwani! I absolutely agree.

      I think back to our journey in homeschooling and see books, audio teaching, video teachings, conversations with friends, and conferences… as well as a good 5-6 year stint I spent actively posting & interacting with other homeschooling moms on the Sonlight Forums… ALL as being parts of helping me to find confidence and sure footing in that decision and aspect of life.

      I absolutely don’t want to communicate that a need for encouragement, instruction, or building up, is a sign that you should stop doing something. We all need that, especially in the beginning!

      Your question is a good one: “how do I know whether I am doing this for unhealthy validation, or whether it is a normal and healthy need and response?” It’s interesting to me, and like you said, could be a find line. I think each one of us can only sort out those hidden motivations of the heart when we are honest with ourselves, with our husbands, and while in the Word. “Am I doing any part of this from pride and a desire for praise?” Even in that, just because that motivation exists does not make the thing itself wrong. Prayer can also help us sort that out.

      Sometimes we find, alongside a biblical desire to train our children in obedience, a prideful desire for them to reflect well on us… so then we have to deal with that ugly attitude in our hearts, EVEN WHILE CONTINUING to pursue the thing that is biblical and right. So there are times, I think, where we have a right conviction in an area of life, but where there is some sinful motivation and so that becomes an opportunity for sanctification and maturity…

      I’m just riffing and talking off the top of my head right now.

      Thoughts? Pushback?

  2. Bethany says:

    The “keep your eyes on your own paper” thing reminds me of something I often say to the little Ws when they’re bickering or tattling. :)

    “Focus on your own behavior. There’s enough work there to keep you busy forever.”

  3. Kondwani says:

    Sometimes motives can fluctuate, even within a single hour! I must confess that sometimes I do want my children to seem particularly ‘good’ or well disciplined, partly because I want people to know that what we are doing is working! But some of it probably is pride too – I do feel embarrassed when they misbehave in a way which they know not to (for example hitting or pushing another child when we are at a home school event or something). Do I feel things reflect on me as a parent, or am I simply distressed at seeing my children sin? A bit of both I suppose. Sometimes I feel that other parents are judging me (particularly those whose children always seem so ‘perfect’); but at the same time, that could partly be my envy of those ‘perfect’ seeming families. Again, it can all be a jumble.

    ‘Search me O God and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offence in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ Psalm 139

    • Jess Connell says:

      YES! Great observations! Certainly I’ve felt everything you described.

      That’s one reason why Proverbs 4:23 is so important– “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” We have to watch our hearts… it is all too easy for us to fall into negative habits and patterns and not be purposeful about what is going in to, and coming out of, our hearts.

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