Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

My Christian friends hold a very different set of values than I do. They permit their kids to celebrate Halloween; they engage in social drinking and hold dances at their church. I can’t imagine how we can have fellowship with each other when our convictions are so different. What do you think?

“L”

Dear “L”,

First of all, I am pleased to see that you have used the word, "convictions." A dramatic difference exists between biblical truths and personal convictions. Too often we Christians confuse the two. We live and die for biblical truth. On the other hand, personal convictions are not nearly as foundational to living out the Christian life. Convictions have more to do with our consciences which are trained to respond one way or another to particular situations and issues.

Christians have been divided over what Paul referred to as "disputable issues" ever since the first century. Most church fights—from the first century down to the present day—were not over biblical issues. The fights were over personal convictions regarding personal consciences. The Roman Christians were having great difficulty in deciding just which activities were acceptable and which were not. They were arguing, among other things, about whether or not it was all right for Christians to eat meat which had previously been offered to idols and then sold at a discount in the market places surrounding the pagan temples.

Paul gave us specific guidelines for settling "food fights" among brothers and sisters in Christ. In Romans 14 Romans 5:5, Paul taught how to settle disagreements among God-loving Christians who are trying to live out the Christian life in gray areas.

In Romans 14:1-3 Paul wrote: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.”

"Disputable matters" are areas where the Bible doesn’t expressly give direction. Two disputable matters—among many others—were rampant in the church in Rome:

1. Eating meat offered to idols
2. Celebrating pagan holidays

Unfortunately, disputable issues still divide and hurt Christians today: drinking alcohol, dancing, dress, movies, music, video games, holidays, tattoos, body piercings, bodily augmentations or "upgrades," worshipping with uplifted hands in prayer, homeschooling, and the list goes on.