Opinions. Everybody has them and most of us think ours are better than the next guy’s. But as Christians, we need to handle opinions–our own and others’–with care. Listen to the encouragement of Romans 14:1:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
One person believes… while the other person… and what happens next?
The Holy Spirit inspired and preserved this warning for a reason. Opinion-quarrels are common. Opinion-quarrels come easy. Opinion-quarrels can feel exhilarating in the moment, especially when we’re looking at pixels instead of pupils. Someone posts an opinion I vehemently disagree with, my provoked spirit is given “full vent” (Prov 29:11), and my fingers fuel-up for the fight. Comments begin to fly faster than I can read or process them, the audience grows, the attention expands… but where does the opinion-quarrel lead?
If I’m not careful, an ugly door in my heart begins to open. I find it incredibly easy within to “despise” a brother or sister in Christ (14:3a). It increasingly feels “right” to “pass judgment” on my fellow disciple (14:3b), “one for whom Christ died” (14:15). And easily forgotten in the opinion-quarrel? A fundamental question: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another” (14:4)? If the Lord has “welcomed” (14:3), is “upholding,” and making that brother or sister “stand” (14:4), who am I–simply a fellow, unworthy servant of the same Lord–to pick or escalate a fight over a matter of judgment?
Opinion-quarrels can exhilarate to the point of intoxication and addiction. Again, there’s a reason the apostle Paul warned young Timothy about those who have “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words” (1 Tim 6:4). Think about that. Some have built a deadly appetite for controversy. They’ve amassed large audiences and built broad platforms with the decaying planks of past quarrels. And when they delightfully throw a barrel of fresh fuel on an opinion-fire, attention is quickly drawn, spirits begin to flare, the comments section dissolves into chaos … and what sort of toxic cloud is “produced”? The rest of 1 Timothy 6:4-5 gives us a pretty good idea…
…envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…
Meanwhile, an unbelieving world is watching. The young and weak in faith are listening. And who is rejoicing? Whose domain is allowed to feel a little more real in such moments?
Romans 14 is a powerful reminder: together, we belong to a kingdom that is all about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (14:17). Take a moment to meditate on those words.
How much more eternally significant are those bedrock blessings than my flimsy opinions and fickle personal preferences?
Sometimes, the wisest way to handle opinions is to restrain my words (Prov 17:27-28) and quietly hold back my spirit (Prov 29:11), especially if the quarrel has nothing to do with me. Quarrels get clicks all day, every day, but “whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (Prov 26:17).
I am one of many, a single member of a body, called to “look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). When truly compelled to share my opinion, or challenge someone else’s, or to outright disagree altogether, I would do well to remember, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Rom 14:7). Pupils before pixels is probably a pretty good rule of thumb for disagreements in the digital age.
In the end, each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:12). Clearly, included in the accounting will be how we handled our own opinions and the opinions of others. So could I suggest Romans 14:20 as worth carrying in your pocket and, most of all, in your heart today? “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.” Slightly adapted: “Do not, for the sake of (insert matter of opinion here), destroy the work of God.” In person and online, “let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom 14:19).
Our King expects it and our blood-bought brethren are worth it.