Developing a Christian Mind – part 5: Openness
Updated: Feb 6
5. The Christian mind seeks to be fully convinced in disputed matters
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. (Romans 14:5)
In Romans 14, Paul deals with a situation where sincere Christians had a difference of opinion over issues that are not essential to the core of the gospel, such as what was permissible to eat and whether certain days should be treated as more holy than others. These were probably differences between Jewish believers, whose consciences did not permit them to eat foods that had previously been forbidden or to abandon the Jewish festivals. Paul’s teaching is aimed at maintaining unity for the sake of the gospel and he lays down two principles to guide them: everything must be done out of faith in God and love for fellow believers. This is, not, however, to say that there is no ‘right or wrong’ answer on the issues themselves. One position indicates stronger faith, which is, of course, desirable.
In the verse above, in the context of this teaching about dealing with differences, Paul challenges the Christians in Rome to be sure that whatever position they hold has been carefully thought through. We are supposed to apply our minds to every question that confronts us, in order, through godly wisdom, to discern God’s will. There ought to be no such thing as an unthinking Christian. There is certainly a tension here between thinking through issues and holding our view with conviction and allowing our strength of conviction to lead to disputes with others resulting in division. We are, however, encouraged to know what we believe and why we believe it. How much of what we believe about aspects of our faith do we simply take at face value because others have told us? It is good to trust those who teach us if they are godly people who know the Scriptures, but we must also take responsibility for our own beliefs.
When we encounter differences in the beliefs of other sincere believers we should not assume that our prior belief is correct, but we willing to revise it in light of biblical truth. We must engage in a process that can be called theological reflection, in which we take a step back from our initial thoughts about the issue to ask whether there are other ways to understand the issue. We can make use of other sources to help us as we search for insights, most important searching the Scriptures to see what they have to say. After a period of reflection we may well conclude that our original belief was correct, but the process of reflecting in light of Scripture will always lead us to a deeper and firmer conviction.
To develop a Christian mind we must be willing to question our assumptions when we are challenged by differences of opinion with other Christians.