“For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” (Heb 13:9)
I would like to note the importance of emphasizing practical teachings and not so much on getting every one straightened out on non-practical teachings. Our desire and burden needs to be to equip believers with an understanding on how to battle the devil, how to keep complete victory over all sin, and how to live a life of self denial and grow in the fruit of the Spirit.
The majority of people in a congregation don’t have a desire to know the nuances between different views of a non-practical teaching. Instead they want to know how to live in a way that is pleasing to God.
While there clearly are teachings that effect the practical – like Eternal Security (can make you careless), Sin-you-must (will cause you to think sinning is acceptable), and Easy Believism (all you have to do is believe, godly sorrow and repentance are not required) – many teachings just don’t have a strong practical application.
Pushing and trying to perfect others in non-practical teachings in my view can many times cause friction between believers. Especially when those that are trying to teach them have more in their head than in their heart. A good example of this spirit taken to the extreme is where ministers will cast out members from their assemblies because they don’t agree with their non-practical teachings.
I have personally experienced the extreme of this happening, so I know what I am talking about. It was where I just couldn’t accept that the three and half days in Revelation chapter 11 are 350 years, which when added to 270 (the fall of the church?) and add to 1260 (1260 years of papal reign) which gives the year 1880 which is when D. S. Warner left the Winebrennarian sect and started – what the majority part is now – Church of God Anderson. One of the minority parts is now the called The Church of God Restoration. Because I wouldn’t accept the teaching that the church was restored in 1880, I was banned from attending the Church of God Restoration meetings, and was told that I wasn’t saved. Can you believe it? Talk about a sectarian spirit — Lord have mercy.
So when I attend other congregations looking for true believers to fellowship with and people start trying to tune me up to their version of the truth I try to steer the conversation away from things we disagree with. I am looking for unity of Spirit not union of doctrine and I have found that going over the things you disagree with doesn’t help to bring unity of Spirit.
I visit around in the Aylmer community quite a bit looking for spiritually minded people to fellowship with, and I have been visiting this one Amish brother for several years now. When I visit him it doesn’t take to long, but starts to discuss the women’s head covering and how women preacher’s are wrong. I put up with it the first couple of times and then I just told him that we covered that in our last visit, why not just share what the Lord means to you. On he goes discussing the head covering and why women shouldn’t be preaching. The last time I visited him it wasn’t very long and he got right into it again so I just told him I needed to go and excused myself. I just kind of shook my head as I left and wondered why people are like that.
Seeing I am in the story telling mood let me tell you one more. I had been visiting this Amishman’s fruit stand a couple of times and we hadn’t gotten into a religious discussion, so I thought I would ask him how he was doing in his his soul. So I asked him and he said “now Bob do your sisters wear head coverings?” I gave him a quick answer and then told him I would rather not discuss things we don’t agree with as they will hinder fellowship and I told him how the Lord has been blessing and helping me.
Then I asked him what was new with him in the Lord. He said “so now Bob, do you feel like it is okay to use insurance?” So I gave a short answer and we went back to talking about the weather. (These are not word for word, but as far as I remember are the just of the conversations.)
Now I know these examples are a bit extreme, but they make a good point. If I am saved and you are saved and we both have a vertical relationship with the Lord, that will bring a horizontal relationship between the two of us. But when we start trying to tune each other up on what we believe, this will not help build the unity of the Spirit. In fact it will in some cases harm it.
I have often felt that those who always want to straighten others out in non-essentials have got more in their head that in their heart. These types seem to like the sound of their own voice and tend to dominate the conversation and be interpretive and some times will talk over you when you are speaking. If you watch closely, they are not really listening to what you are saying but waiting for the next time you take a pause to breath to bring out their next thought.
We are instructed to endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). God has given gifts to ministers for the “perfecting of the saints… for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith” (Eph 4:12,13). So there is a coming to the unity of the faith and it is a progress.
As Christians, we should be trying to help each other in the practical areas. Sharing our victories, our needs, and the areas where God has been helping us gain grace. May the Lord help us all to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Barnes Commentary on Heb 13:9:
Not with meats – The meaning is, that it is better to have the heart established with grace, or with the principles of pure religion, than with the most accurate knowledge of the rules of distinguishing the clean from the unclean among the various articles of food. Many such rules were found in the Law of Moses, and many more had been added by the refinements of Jewish rulers and by tradition.
To distinguish and remember all these, required no small amount of knowledge, and the Jewish teachers, doubtless, prided themselves much on it. Paul says that it would be much better to have the principles of grace in the heart than all this knowledge; to have the mind settled on the great truths of religion than to be able to make the most accurate and learned distinctions in this matter.
The same remark may be made about a great many other points besides the Jewish distinctions respecting meats. The principle is, that it is better to have the heart established in the grace of God than to have the most accurate knowledge of the distinctions which are made on useless or unimportant subjects of religion. This observation would extend to many of the shibboleths of party; to many of the metaphysical distinctions in a hair-splitting theology; to many of the points of controversy which divide the Christian world.