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by Wayne Blank
The apostle Paul was a brave man (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey and Paul's Third Missionary Journey), not only for the things that he did in his time, but for the things that he said, and wrote, for all time. Brave, and honest - to others, and to himself.
Almighty God is perfect. The Words of God are perfect. Jesus Christ is perfect. The Holy Bible is perfect. But, because humans are not perfect, our translations and understanding of all that was originally written is not perfect either. If it were, everyone with the Ears To Hear would completely agree with the full meaning of every verse. As it is, human reasoning, which is largely based upon our own personal experiences and situation, often makes up the shortfall, hence all of the different, and usually self-accommodating, interpretations and beliefs.
Despite having been given, through The Holy Spirit, to write so much of The Bible record, Paul knew full well that even his own understanding of God was, as he said, like seeing "in a mirror dimly" of all that there is to know and understand. If Paul himself did not fully understand what God was writing, through him, how could anybody, then or now, claim perfection?
Only God is perfect. Only God has the right to judge. And He will.
"As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:1-5 RSV)
There is nothing wrong with being convinced, in our own minds, that we are right about something. Nor is there anything wrong with teaching or vigorously debating those beliefs with fellow believers who are interested in doing so. But, there is a great amount wrong with judging, or condemning, or insulting, or persecuting other Christians who in good faith do not agree with the conclusions that we have freely and honestly reached in our own minds, because the conclusions that they have freely and honestly reached in their own minds just might be right. If it turns out in the end that the others were right, those who judged and condemned them now for "being so wrong" may later themselves be condemned, by Almighty God, at the sound of their own words:
"I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:36-37 RSV)
Fact Finder: What is "truth"?