1) How do you deal with people who are not like you? What happens when someone’s personal habits conflict with yours?
2) What kind of influence do you have on those around you? Do you build people up? Do you encourage them on their journey?
3) What is a good goal to have in mind when considering living among those that are different than us? What should be our aspiration in relating to others?
Are you neat or messy? Do you live in the big picture or the details? There is not a right or wrong way here. However, differences between people can cause great difficulty. How do you respond to these differences? There are issues in the Bible which fall into the category of what Paul calls “disputable matters” (14:1). He cites the examples of diet and special days (14:6). These were big issues in the life of the early church. Some who came to faith in Christ did so with a strong Jewish heritage. They held on to dietary and Sabbath regulations. Others lived out fully the understanding that we are free in Christ. We must not condemn those who see these matters differently than we do (14:3).
Paul moves from what others are doing to the impact we are having on their lives (14:13). We have a tremendous responsibility to live in a way that doesn’t cause others to struggle with their faith. The “disputable matters” that Paul is addressing should never become a reason for others to become “distressed” (14:15). If this is happening, then you have chosen to exercise your freedom at the expense of another. Paul also addressed this in 1 Corinthians 8:9 – “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” And Paul is quick to point out that if this is what we are doing, we are “no longer acting in love” (14:15).
In verse 19, Paul sums up what the target should be for the way we live with those that we differ from on “disputable matters”: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Unity, peace, love – these keep coming up as they way for us to live. Could it really be this basic?