conflict over moral ideas

January 3, 2008

After preaching at 18:30 of the 31st, I drove over to Klein Kariba with a friend. A number of my friends was there for a outreach program in the holiday resort. Very few students remain in Pretoria over New Years, and I wasn’t feeling like spending New Years on my own. I was aware of some tensions in the group before going, something that is not necessarily abnormal, throw a random number of people into a small space for a weeks time, especially if their is no one that is capable, and has the authority, to facilitate conflict in the group, and you’re bound to have some tensions.

What all the tensions was, I don’t know, but on this evening one part of the tension was really tight. One guy didn’t use any alcohol, and the rest did, and this resulted in a lot of bad feelings. How did this happen? At first I was kind of uncomfortable with the anger that was present towards this poor guy, I mean really, it’s his right not to drink any alcohol if he likes to, and I know some people with similar views, and  haven’t seen tensions over it. I  mean, the chairman of our house last year didn’t use any alcohol, and still he was voted chairman by the students, and never was there any issues about this.

But than one of my friends started explaining things. The tensions was especially between two people. The non-drinking gut, and another girl. This guy had very strict black-white answers for everything, while the girl knew that this was not always possible. So from time to time this guy would throw Bible-verses at the group, and at this girl in particular, to show them how wrong they were. Then something started falling in place. I’ve seen this before.

You have someone with particular ideas on something, and in effect they start telling those differing from them that they are wrong, throwing the Bible at them in a way that says: “you are a sinner! you are a heretic” (even if they will never say this directly. It’s not something that is nice to hear, and in many Christians this cause some antagonistic feelings, since someone is calling me an “outsider”, actually not part of the Christian community (yes, read your Bible, sinners and heretics ain’t part, wasn’t this what Paul fought so hard for, to show people that sinners are part of the Christian community because of Christ). This then cause some reactions, many times the type that lets this poor guy feel quite stupid, and others the type that is just purposefully making as if one is even worse than he is saying.

OK, long story, little specifics, but I’m sure you’ve seen this. Some people can have their ideas, whether conservative or not, about things, without ever causing bad feelings among others, while some people really cause a lot of tensions because they are pushing at everybody who differs from them, always telling them they are wrong and what have you. Looking at the history of the church in society, and how concepts have changed over time, it might be a good idea to be very very cautious when telling fellow believers what to do and what not to do. And this goes for those on both ends of the spectrum.


4 Responses to “conflict over moral ideas”

  1. Ronald van der Bergh Says:


    Once again, I agree with your conclusion. One should be very careful when working with people not to force your opinion on them. Might I also add that I think many such situations result from different ways of understanding the law. (Yes, back to Paul…) I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately. If we are really people that has been redeemed – people whose sins are forgiven – then the law can only be a GUIDELINE. It shows us what it means to live in the right relationship with Christ. It DOES NOT INFLUENCE whether you are saved or not! I have a suspicion, however, that people who tend to force their opinion on others might disagree with me over this, however.

  2. cobus Says:

    I’m with you on this, but not sure it’s that easy. Think about the concept justice as found with Jesus, is justice only a guideline? I’ve been preaching from Matthew this past month, and for Matthew what you DO, is very important!

    I think the difference come in that the law help us to see how we should be followers of Jesus within society. Loving God meand loving neighbour kind of thing. The trouble seems to arise when the law need to be obeyed simply for the sake of the law.

    The example we experienced over new years, which you understand better than I do, had nothing to do with justice or with loving people. So maybe we need to make more about the law as guideline for acting in relation to others (within Jesus research this would seem especially in relation to those suffering), and less about the law as how I relate strictly to God, in all respect.

  3. Ronald van der Bergh Says:


    I also think a relational approach would be a better interpretation.

    Concerning DOING (good) things – I can also think of the second chapter of James. Faith and doing goes hand in hand. This is not the same as saying that DOING will save you. However, if one has a personal relationship with God, one would try to act in a way that honours this relationship. DOING is a consequence of FAITH, not the other way round. In other words, one does what is right because you are in a relationship with God, not because you can earn your salvation.

    Hope this makes sense!

  4. cobus Says:

    Aaah, so we are back to the old debate concerning faith and works:-)

    Not an easy topic. I think our theological conversation got itself into trouble cause the conversation always centered around how to be saved, how to get to heaven. My problem with that was always that if the question is: “Can the pope help me get to heaven?”, then the answer “sola gratia” I find compelling. But what if going to heaven is not the category where works should be talked about?

    What got me thinking was a reading of the Bible that was both against a strict adherence to some written law, but also much more radical about how we live, how we do things, than our reformed tradition seem to be.

    Hope this make some sense?:-)

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