Occasionally it is necessary to dispute certain doctrines that are taught within the religious community.
But some people feel that any religious disagreement with anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian is mean-spirited. They believe opposition to certain teachings is unkind and narrow.
We would respond to this sincere question in the following fashion.
Love and the Acceptance of Error
First, it should go without saying that the Christian is to demonstrate love towards all—even those who resist the truth in the most militant fashion.
The love of God for rebellious mankind is portrayed repeatedly in the Scriptures. The Father commended his love toward us by giving his Son for our sins, even while we were hostile and sinful toward him (Rom. 5:8).
That does not mean, however, that he ignores how we live or what we teach.
In this same context, the lost are described as being weak and ungodly, as sinners, and enemies worthy of divine wrath. (Rom. 5:6, 8, 9-10).
Love offers a remedy for humanity’s sinful condition, but it does not close its eyes to reality.
The Consequences of Rejecting God’s Loving Rebuke
An understanding of Old Testament history forever demolishes the erroneous notion that God is unconcerned with whether men and women entertain “different understandings of Him.”
For example, many of the nations of the antique world understood God to be identified in various idol forms, which they devoutly worshiped. But the prophets rebuked these base activities. And Jehovah destroyed nation after nation that persisted in this evil ideology and practice.
The Honest Compassion of Christ
No informed Bible student will deny that Jesus Christ loved men and women supremely. When they ignorantly languished under the effects of sin, he tenderly sought to reclaim them (cf. Lk. 7:36ff; Jn. 8:1-11). The Savior came not to crush the bruised reed, nor to quench the smoldering wick (cf. Mt. 12:20).
Jesus was the compassionate Christ!
On the other hand, the Lord could be (and was) very severe in dealing with corrupt religious leaders, who should have known better (and frequently did) than to act and teach contrary to truth.
He cast out of the temple those who trafficked in religion for commercial purposes (Mt. 21:12-13; Jn. 2:13-17). He informed the corrupt Pharisees that they were not legitimate heirs of Abraham; rather, they were devilish in their actions (Jn. 8:33ff).
One can scarcely read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew without feeling the heat of Christ’s rebuke of certain corrupt Hebrew leaders.
It is not, therefore, wrong to oppose error.
Further, it is a gross inconsistency to rebuke someone for being a rebuker. Why is it that folks cannot see the flaw in their argument when they are intolerant of those with whom they charge intolerance?
May We Disagree About God?
The most stunning component of our reader’s complaint, however, is the allegation that it is permissible for people to entertain different understandings of divine truth that pertain to the salvation of one’s soul!
We must call attention to the following.
God is infinite in his knowledge (Psa. 147:5). He is a God of knowledge (1 Sam. 2:3), who knows all things (1 Jn. 3:20). The riches of his knowledge is a reality too deep for human conception (Rom. 11:33).
It is never accurate to say or even to imply that God is unconcerned with disagreements among men relative to the eternal truths that he has revealed to the human family.
Disputes regarding what the Lord requires men and women to believe and practice is not the result of different understandings. It is because of misunderstandings on the part of misinformed people, even though they may be very sincere.
God is a being of truth (i.e. faithfulness; cf. Deut. 32:4, ASV). All his words are pure (Psa. 12:6). He cannot speak that which is untrue (Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18), because his word is truth (Jn. 17:17).
Any disagreement as to what God requires, therefore, is a disagreement over the difference between truth and error. To suggest that God is not concerned with the difference between truth and non-truth is to cast serious reflection upon the God of truth.
It is a dangerous thing to suggest that folks may disagree about what God teaches and at the same time stand approved in his sight.
In his letter to the Roman saints, Paul discussed the advantage that historically had been granted to the Hebrew nation. For one thing, they had been entrusted with the “oracles of God” (i.e., the sacred Scriptures; cf. Rom. 3:1-2).
The question then is raised: “What if some were without faith?”
The meaning of that question is this. What would be the case if some of the Jews proved to be unfaithful to Jehovah’s plan on their behalf? What if some of the Hebrews decided to chart their own course. In other words, they entertained disagreements with the faithful about what the Lord required of them?
Would their disagreement or misunderstanding have nullified the divine plan? Would they have exposed God as being unfaithful? Absolutely not!
This stinging rebuke is then offered: “Let God be found true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).
Here is what the inspired apostle is affirming.
Any theory, opinion, or doctrinal position that is adverse to the revealed will of God is a lie.
And those who teach and broadcast such are liars, whether they intend to be or not.
Is that strong language from Paul? Most assuredly it is, but the force of it is designed to preserve the integrity of the Almighty.
By implication this text teaches that those who profess to be Jehovah’s people, especially teachers (Jas. 3:1), must agree with him and among themselves. The Lord expects us to strive for submission to him and a united teaching on fundamental truths.
It is exceedingly foolish to suggest that God does not care whether people understand his will or not. It is a grave danger to develop the mindset that it really doesn’t matter whether what we teach is truth or error.
“Be not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).