Early in the life of the Christian Church, dissent was known.
The Council of Jerusalem was called to make a judgement on the matter of certain Jewish leaders forcing Gentiles to observe Jewish traditions in order to qualify as Christian. In wisdom, the collective judged this to be unnecessary. As Peter noted, it was senseless to place upon the Gentiles “a yoke that neither [they] nor [their] ancestors had been able to bear”.
And still today, there are believers who insist that this yoke must be borne. They claim that since Jesus came to fulfil rather than to abolish the Law, these bits of legalism remain enforceable, and are not obsolete as suggested in Hebrews 8. One must keep the Jewish Sabbath…. One must observe Jewish dietary laws… The Christian religion then becomes a matter of keeping forced rules rather than being liberated to freely keep God’s law – to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as Jesus both shows us how to, and through the Holy Spirit enables us to.
The glaring problem is that many who fulfil these prescriptions are often not the least bit concerned about maintaining the them/us divide. They will not agree to disagree. They will not tackle problems that threaten the dignity of human persons or fight the issues that seemed to matter to Jesus.
Another interesting thing to note is the show of unity which Paul and Barnabas, Judas and Silas, made as representatives of both Jewish and Gentile churches. Paul and Barnabas had worked among the Gentiles and had experienced first-hand the confusion caused by the needless burden of rules that did nothing to enhance Christian faith. Judas and Silas were prophets sent with a letter to affirm Paul’s and Barnabas’ report.
And in the end, even Paul and Barnabas agreed to disagree rather than to split the church.
Will we? Do we always have to have the last say when that last say belongs only to God?