Jesus once criticized the Pharisees because as He said, “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (from Matthew 23:24). He meant they were very meticulous about small things, but very careless about more important matters. Jesus said people who find tiny splinters in their brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in their own eye are hypocrites. The Apostle Paul also spoke to our tendency to focus on minor issues when he addressed the issue of what foods to eat and what to avoid. To resolve such a minor issue, he said, “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… No food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 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… 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… So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up” (from Romans 14:13–19). Paul tells us that in trivial matters, love is more important than insisting on our rights. We should not waste time arguing over trivial matters in our relationships with one another. Rather, we should encourage each other in the important issues of moral and ethical character—and leave the gnats alone.
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