Accept One Another

January 23, 2006

Far too many issues divide Christians today. Recently I’ve participated in discussions about a couple of these issues (instrumental music, and the role of women in the church). Those discussions have been enlightening.

On these two issues I find myself on opposite sides. I do not have a conscientious objection to worshipping with instrumental music, putting me on the permissive side of that debate. However, I do have a conscience issue with women speaking publicly in a worship service, putting me on the restrictive side of the question. Participating in these two discussions has shown me what it feels like for people on both sides of a disputed question.

I won’t get into the specifics of my beliefs on these topics here. You can read my post commenting on instrumental music here, and the thread where I posted on the role of women here.

While I do not believe it is wrong to use instrumental music in worship, I respect those who believe it is wrong. Their belief is derived from scripture honestly, based on a certain hermeneutic, and is well though-out. There are many who hold that belief sincerely and with deep conviction, despite the extreme unpopularity of the belief. Their conviction and integrity is commendable. I know how it feels to hold such a conviction because I hold a similarly unpopular conviction on the subject of the women’s role.

Many who hold the permissive view on one of these subjects cannot imagine how an honest person could hold the opposing view. So they conclude that the other person must be dishonest, or illogical, or biased. The motives of the conservative person are often called into question. The discussion descends into ad hominum arguments. That is not constructive, and is not “walking in love” (Rom 14:13-15).

If there is any hope of restoring unity to the Lord’s church, we must learn to accept one another without passing judgment on one another on disputable matters.

It apparently is possible to condemn yourself by approving something God does not approve:

Rom 14:22-23 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

I do not know whether approving instrumental music or approving women preaching would fit into the category of a person condemning himself by what he approves. But it is quite clear that a person who believes one of these to be wrong, yet practices it anyway, is risking condemnation. Therefore we should be quite careful to respect the convictions of those who believe such things to be wrong. They have no choice but to follow their consciences.

For the sake of the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17, let’s resolve not to put a stumbling block in our brother’s way.


  1. Great perspective. We would all do Christ a favor to keep this in mind.

  2. Yes, Amen to that Alan. Appreciate the discussion that is going on on Clarkes blog as well as your well articulated positions on the matter of women in the church

  3. Alan, I appreciate your openness to these issues. We need more of this. I am with you on the instrumental issue. I see the scriptures that people point to but just don’t see how they get certain things. I think social issues contributed much to our rejection of instruments following the Civil War and we have backed it up with scripture. While I agree that you can worship with an instrument, I still prefer a cappella worship. I have been in places where an instrument is used and it is hard to get into it. I love to sing!Besides that, though, I think the thing that we need to discuss at some point that this whole thing revolves around is the issue of hermeneutics and how we view scripture. That is the bigger issue to look at.Thanks.

  4. Hey Kent,Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that hermeneutics are of central importance in this effort. I posted a while back that unity must be built on consensus about certain things. It seems to me that the scriptures must be the foundation for unity. But unit will be very elusive if we can’t agree on how the scriptures should be used. Much open-minded discussion is needed on that subject.Alan

  5. Good post, Alan.

  6. Alan,The challenge that I think we all face is the risk of being condemned for acting against our convictions. How do we welcome brothers and sisters into our fellowship, or conversely feel welcomed into other fellowships, when our convictions regarding music, leadership, even discipling differ? If you’re at my congregation and a woman speaks, are you condemned by your conscience? I think that that fear has led to years and years of inaction and has only increased the division. Overcoming this will be the key to moving forward.-Frank

  7. Hello Frank,Thanks for your comments. It’s always encouraging to hear from others who share the conviction to work for unity.I don’t think it is necessary for everyone in the assembly to agree on every point. I need to walk according to my conscience, but I don’t think what another person does can defile my conscience. It would be great if everyone agreed on every point, but that seems to be out of our reach. That wasn’t even achieved in the first century church. So I think we should start by accepting everyone whom God has forgiven, without taking one another to task on matters where we disagree.Alan

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