As I reviewed some journal/devotional entries, I ran across this one from two years ago this week. Bittnerness was setting in and I was becoming plain mean about church reform. Why couldn’t anyone see I was right, (expletive)? To this day I still bow my back and wonder if God will tolerate it much longer. I hope it may help you:
A delicate line often separates conviction and concession. What may be matters of conviction for one could be easily conceded by another. God’s wisdom must distinguish between holding fast and holding loosely. Is it ever wrong to be right?
Paul instructs us in many places to keep the weaker brother’s interest at heart. In other words, there are simply some issues that are not worth ruining another’s soul (1 Cor 8.11). Whether it be matters of diet (Rom 14.1-3; 1 Cor 8; 10.25-31; Col 2.16), matters of festival (Rom 14.5-6; Col 2.16), or matters of circumstantial conscience (Rom 14.22), maturity always stoops and lends a helping hand to immaturity.
Conviction is hardly a weapon to force others into submission. Humility makes friends of enemies. Peace repairs breached walls. Maturity does not starve young seeds, but fertilizes them. And so, pastoral ministry is the constant (re)positioning of conviction and concession.
There are matters of faith that demand a death grip. In Paul’s words, there are matters of food and there are matters of confession. However, holding certain convictions does not mean we kick off intruders while dangling from the top rung. Rather, we hold ever so tightly (or are held ever so tightly?) with one hand while offering our other hand to help God’s people to the next step.
Young, Reformed, inexperienced pastors (like myself) emerge from a renewed interest in historical and experiential theology. They charge off the line, sprinting to first place, flaunting their ability, and arrogantly leaving congregations in a wake of confusion. Their legacy is how strong they held their convictions rather than how gracious and patient God is with sinners.
Perhaps Jesus would remain in last place, encouraging the slowest runner to a quicker next lap. Before long and with each runner, Jesus quickens the pace of the pack. So, rather than having a champion sprinter who leaves congregations gasping for air on the sidelines, our churches need a champion servant who enjoys last place in a pack of sprinters. Our churches limp around the track not because they hate to run, but becaue they’ve have hardly trained.
I write all of this amid significant turmoil at our church. It is not hard for me to be convicted about biblical issues. In fact, I expect to lose the pulpit for them. It is, however, extremely hard for me to be a gracious loser. The desire to be right quickly absorbs my love for the weak-hearted. Often God’s mercy is better spent on those most convicted. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food (Rom 14.20).