Read Romans 14:13-19
13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. (NLT)
When it comes to the ordering of belief, Christians can fall into one of two opposite errors. One is to make everything uncertain, to see belief as ultimately fluid. All is grey, all is doubtful. The other and opposite error is to see everything as black-and-white, concede there is doubt at one point and the whole edifice of faith crumbles. Most Christians fall somewhere between these extremes: some being more inclined to grey, others lean more towards black-and-white.
It is helpful to consider a ‘concentric circles’ pattern. At the centre there is a solid core: abandon that and you abandon faith itself. Then in the next circle there are widely held beliefs by Christians but you may have a contrary view and still be true to your core faith. In the outermost circle there are opinions held by Christians which contain quite a lot of diversity.
Perhaps the issues to which Paul refers belong in this category. The danger he is addressing is simply this: we tend to put the strong opinions we hold into the innermost circle. We make personal opinions and traditions non-negotiable items of faith. And so we avoid wishy-washy liberalism at the expense of embracing ugly bigotry disguised as ‘biblical orthodoxy’.
We do need to define our faith carefully, but a large dose of humility and grace may help us avoid defining it too narrowly.