Eat the Meat and Spit Out the Bones

A phrase that I learned early on in my ministry is “eat the meat and spit out the bones.”  Let me explain what I mean: You will always encounter people that you don’t agree with.  Sometimes these disagreements are major, sometimes they are minor, but they will always be there.  And I’m sure that all of you will agree with me when I say that nothing seems to encourage disagreements more than theology.  I’ve seen way too many people who call themselves Christians get in huge arguments over theological issues that really don’t matter.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying – I am in no way, shape, or form a Universalist.  I believe in absolute truth and that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.  I believe in heaven and hell and that the only way to get to heaven is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  However, with that being said, there are grey areas in Scripture.  Places where things are open for interpretation.  This is one of the reasons we have so many denominations.

So, what do you do when you encounter someone who believes differently than you?  I’m not talking about Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc.  I’m talking about fellow Christ-Followers who just happen to believe differently on certain issues.  The best advice I can give is to eat the meat and spit out the bones.  In other words, focus on what you have in common (the meat) and ignore your differences (the bones).  Sometimes it’s like a t-bone steak, mainly meat with a little bit of bone.  Other times it’s like BBQ spare ribs, lots of bone and a little bit of meat.  But it’s essential, especially in rural ministry, to focus on the meat and ignore the bones.

Why is this essential in rural ministry?  Because in metropolitan areas it’s very easy to blend in and hide.  You can have people living on the same street, within just a few hundred yards of each other, and be complete strangers.  This is not the case in rural ministry where everybody knows everybody.  When you live in the sticks it’s almost impossible to remain anonymous.  Everyone knows all the pastors in the area and who goes to what church.  What kind of witness do we give our communities when all we do is fight amongst ourselves?  Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)  Wow, people will know that we are disciples of Jesus if we love one another.  How are we doing with that?

There’s a story from the early days of my ministry that illustrates this point well.  The first week I was at my church one of the other local pastors stopped by my office.  He introduced himself and then said “I was hoping that we could work together as teammates instead of competing like competitors.”  I’ve been teammates with that pastor for the last 10 years.  In fact, he’s become a very dear friend.  We have our theological differences for sure, but I’ve discovered that we have far more in common than not.  By working together we’ve accomplished much more for the Kingdom of God than we ever could by fighting and arguing.

With all this being said I know that sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.  That sometimes our theological differences are just too great for us to work together.  But I have found this to be the exception rather than the rule.

So how about you?  Where do you draw the line in the sand?  How differently would someone have to believe before you could no longer call them a brother or sister in the faith?  Leave a comment below.

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5 Comments on “Eat the Meat and Spit Out the Bones”

  1. Lawrence Bellows, D.C. Says:

    I think that this should be in the seat of every church at least once per month to remind us of this very important point. I think that for pastors and congregations they sometimes get caught up in the differences and miss out on the common ground that would certainly lead to blessings for humanity. Pastor Harry is a great example of this blog entry for “Eat the meat and spit out the bones”. I leave this blog today feeling challenged to find other avenues in my life where I can utilize this concept.

    • Peter Says:

      disagree with you; The word of God is truth, this saying is not biblical at all. This saying encourages compromise to God’s word. The Bible doctrine is the word of God, Theology is how man interprets it. This saying is like saying everyone play nice in the sandbox together, or take what applies and let the rest fly. Or even Burger Kings saying “have it your way”. In other words the entire word of God applies to our lives not bits and pieces if your a Christian you should know that. Separating Gods word is how movements like the “prosperity message” and “name it claim it” (faith movement started). The Bible teaches us how to live we do not need worldly sayings that distort the truth in attempt to get everyone to get along. Were suppose to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. God’s word produces this in us through the Holy Spirit. Not by worldly sayings. If your attending a church where people are not getting along “come out from among them and be separate” Don’t try to transform the church to the ways of the world. The world transforms to the word of God and if not accountability is needed, correction, church discipline, to dismiss any individual who wants to live any sexual immoral life in the church, deceiver, drunkard, enticer; etc….. There are multiple verses in the bible with lists. Galation 5: 19-20. Problem is people want to bring their lifestyle and their own believes into the church and continue to live this way in the church and when its not accepted we have people crying lets just get along. The Bible does not teach that. It teaches to come out from among them, it teaches accountability, church discipline, to walk in the spirit, and much more. Many pastors are fearful to hold someone accountable or to do church discipline because they to not want to loose a tithe or financial support or popularity.
      I attend a church where my pastor teaches doctrine and there is accountability and church discipline. I am thankful and believe there are few churches like mine.

      • apreiser Says:

        I cannot agree more with Peter. Eating the meat and throwing away the bone is bad advice at best, and heresy at worst. What happens when people are feeding you poisoned meat? I’ve heard televangelists feeding people poisoned meat all day long on TBN. One said God’s plan for salvation could have been stopped by Zacharias speaking negative words of doubt. The God I serve cannot be stopped by man, angel, demon, or all creation combined. They are teaching another Jesus, so this is no mere bone, this is poisoned meat. We, as the people of God, need to put down all these “christian” books and pick up our Bible. If we did, we would know what verses like John 17:17 said without having to look it up.
        PS I’m still looking for a church in my area which teaches true doctrine and isn’t looking to make people feel good by giving a watered-down message

  2. Hello Friend, You wrote this piece long ago but ah… the beauty of research and to it I stumble upon – thank you – it made for good reading and was certainly encouraging. It reminded me of an old adage often credited to Augustine or Meldenius, that is, “In the essentials, UNITY, in the non-essentials, LIBERTY and all other things, CHARITY”. That is the code I follow…for instance, I noticed you quoted from the NIV, which I honestly believe compromises key verses of scriptures by way of inaccurate translation…however, we both agree that the Word Of God is in fact inspired and inerrant and that salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone and so in that Essential we agree and must agree lest we believe a different gospel…again thank you for your writing and please lift me up that I may remain in Him during these dark and depraved times as I will do the same for you.

  3. aCADian Says:

    The other angle:

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