What do you do when you are in a sticky situation? Perhaps there is a clear right and wrong to the matter and perhaps there is not. What is your default position? Is it to dig in on principle, compromise, or cave? The depth of the issues and the personalities involved will determine how far you might go.

For instance, most of us will try to get along. We may not like, or even agree with, the direction that a concern is being managed, but the stakes are low enough to keep us from the fight. This seems reasonable.

What happens, though, when an issue is a Biblical one? Sadly, and more often than not, we create a new rule, a new law, or a new denomination to satisfy the offense. We find like-minds to congregate with and label the opposition as outsiders if they refuse to comply.

All of this is not to say that sometimes we must stand our ground, but what, in the end, is necessary to go to war over? Is it culture? Is it defense against evil? Surely, these should make for a united front.

Which, however, is more important? A. People having an opportunity to learn and hear of God’s love, hope, and mercy, or B. The messenger fits a certain quality such as age, sex, or race? If a person of another race speaks to a predominantly white, black, Hispanic, or Asian audience, should that message be of no value? Can a person of one gender not teach one of another gender? Is that, too, forbidden?

These types of questions regarding who can lead a group of people spiritually fall into one of two camps. The first camp states that a literal and timeless scripture is the norm and mandate. Deviation is sin. The other group would suggest that scripture is a malleable document and, therefore, nuanced. For this group, the application of hermeneutics opens the door for interpretation.

Can this go too far? Again, certainly. But I am concerned that when we doggedly and dogmatically assert absolute insight and understanding of scriptures, we alienate the opportunity to discover perhaps deeper meanings. Moreover, at what cost?

My position will not be popular among some of my readers, but the adage, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” rings true. The church has always had disputes over things great and small. In the New Testament alone, disputes over food and recognition of certain days caused division!

In a timely article by Mark Ross, the suggestion of charity seems best.

“After two thousand years of church history, Christians are still divided on many key doctrinal issues, even on the very signs of our unity in Christ — baptism and the Lord’s Supper. How, then, can we be one in Christ and demonstrate the communion of saints? It would seem that either we must ignore our doctrinal differences and treat them as inconsequential, or we must remain permanently divided and in opposition to one another until Christ returns. Is there not a more excellent way?”

Yes, Mark, and yes, church, there is a more excellent way: charity. May we bear with one another as we grow in the knowledge of scripture.

Kent Simmons is the pastor of Canyon Community Church in Kingman, AZ.