Love allows for not insisting on one’s own integrity at the expense of the unity of the community.Stendahl, Krister. Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1976. Print. p. 67
I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few more sections of Among Jews and Gentiles by Krister Stendahl, and I just had to share some thoughts from this section on “Love Rather than Integrity.” Here is the rest of the quote:
Love, as Paul understands it, urges us to respect fully the integrity of those who think and feel otherwise. In Romans Paul expresses it well when he says, “Welcome and accept the one who is weak in faith—and not for the purpose of arguing … Let everyone be convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:1, 5). Love allows for the full respect of the integrity of the other, and overcomes the divisiveness of my zeal for having it my way in the name of my own integrity.p. 67
It is the responsibility of the more knowledgeable Christians to maintain unity in a congregation, not of those “weak in faith” to conform to the beliefs and positions of the mature Christian. Many divisions among the church occur when those who claim to have some superior knowledge insist on their way to the point of causing splits in the body. These divisive individuals demand conformity to their way, and, in doing so, jeopardize unity within the church.
While we shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about our beliefs, even if they differ from the majority, they should never be a cause for division unless that particular belief leads to unloving behavior such as enslaving others or mistreating women.
Unfortunately, many fellowships do not allow for any differences of opinion among their flock because of several misinterpreted texts such as 1 Corinthians 1:10, “speak the same thing.” So, in those environments, flexibility is an impossibility. Those types of churches are unhealthy, and it may be best to find a community that allows you to ask questions without fear of judgement instead of trying to actively turn people to your side.
This emphasis of love over integrity may seem weak or cowardly to some more bold brothers and sisters, but it is the way of the Cross.
Perhaps one of the points of confusion surrounding this principle is false doctrine.
Some see any teaching that they believe doesn’t accurately reflect the Bible as false doctrine.
So, if someone prefers to use multiple cups or worship with an instrument, they are liars who teach false doctrine, but this isn’t a biblical view of false doctrine.
For example, if someone insists on not eating meat sacrificed to idols, are they teaching false doctrine? No. For Paul argues in their favor saying that they must abide by their conscience. But, are they technically correct? No. They aren’t. But that does not mean they are teaching false doctrine.
Or another example: let’s say someone believes that the millennium is a literal 1000 years. Are they technically correct? Not from my perspective, but are they teaching false doctrine that will condemn them to Hell? No.
If we were to accept the traditional view of defining false doctrine, there wouldn’t be anyone who teaches truth totally for none of us have perfect knowledge. This doesn’t mean that truth is ultimately subjective; there is objective truth, but none of us come close to being 100% right on everything.
What then constitutes false doctrine? What should we look out for?
Let’s go to John for help.
And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.2 John 6–11
What teaching of/ concerning Christ is John concerned with? Affirming that Jesus had come in the flesh and keeping the commandment: to love one another (verse 5). The one who has this teaching has “both the Father and the Son.” Belief in Jesus is the basis of our unity, not conforming to a list of doctrines.
In the Christian tradition, we emphasize love, even if it means making sacrifices.
To end, here is a story about a boy scout shared by Stendahl.
I have always liked the story of the boy scout who knew that it is good to help old ladies cross streets. He had, however, really started to understand the seriousness of Christianity, so that he had started to realize that he did such good deeds—leading old ladies across the street—just to show off. One day there was an old lady who needed help in crossing the street, but the scout withstood the terrible temptation to help her because he knew he would be doing so only to show off. So he kept his integrity, and the old lady was run over. Indeed, he had kept his integrity but he had lost the perspective of love. Perhaps it is more important to help than to be totally pure in one’s integrity.p. 65