The “New Idea” Syndrome

Preface: The insistence by some Jewish Christians that Gentiles must be circumcised in order to become true followers of Christ posed a serious threat to the unity of the early church. Instead of letting this issue divide the church into two different movements, the apostles worked together, in spite of conflicts among themselves, to ensure that the body of Christ stayed united and faithful to the truth of the gospel.

Imagine the grief suffered by Christians through the years because they have believed mistakenly that Jesus would be unhappy with a “new idea.” For example, put yourself at the breakfast table in a conservative Christian home in Jerusalem when the story is told of Paul’s preaching the gospel to Gentiles. If there was one thing the Jews had learned through their long and painful history, it was never to involve themselves with outsiders. In the past this had usually meant trouble—big trouble! Can you imagine mother and father discussing in front of the kids the pros and cons of the gospel going to the Gentiles? After all, these parents desperately want their children to grow up Christian and not experience the punishment that would surely come from such apostasy.

In more recent times, picture the grief within the church when Copernicus announced that the earth was not the center of the universe. This “new idea” was declared heresy because theologians would have to change many of their “bits of logic” based on the “fact” that the earth is the center of God’s universe. Today we smugly snicker over their uneducated views. But the truth remains that many a Christian family self-destructed in heated arguments over what God wanted them to do and think.

So how can we attain unity and still have a diversity of thinking? Here are some suggestions:

1. Act Christian about things that you believe are not Christian. So often it is tempting to slander those who slander or criticize.
2. Ask yourself not whether Jesus would approve of a specific behavior, but what He would do. Live in the Spirit, and focus on the cross. This will help you behave the way He would.
3. Remember that progress can come from disagreement. The reason we have conflict is that reasonable people perceive facts differently.
4. Remember that if an issue is genuinely important, then God cares more about it than we do. Our task is to act responsibly in the areas in which we have agreement. Beyond that we must learn to trust God if we believe He is in ultimate control.
5. Learn to love the people on both sides of an issue. It is always the behavior or idea that we may disagree with, not the person.And what if we are the ones who are finally shown to be shortsighted? We still want others tolove us—even when our ideas are crazy.