The reason people exaggerate claims and get swept up in false spirituality is because they feel (sometimes rightfully) unaccepted in places that they have gone for healing. Churches that drive others away out of divisive ideology and a negative atmosphere are just as responsible for false doctrine as the people that can end up spreading it, having been cast out of more normative spaces on the basis that they didn’t jive well with an unforgiving congregation. If others write you off and the image of God in you by bickering over faith trivialities, and both you and the people who oppose you are unwilling to find common ground in the name of Jesus, people generally look to practice their faith in other venues. This can be good as much as it can be destructive, even if it’s a challenge to traditional doctrine. For example, if your community is more negative to be around for your spiritual health than positive, and if in going to church you feel consistently drained not by the gospel, but by the fickle people you are around, and in clinging to direct scripture instead of a gossiping and divisive subculture, you find a more wholesome faith, resistance can be holy. Likewise, if your community teaches doctrine that is fundamentally opposed to the message of free grace and salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, then investing your time there could ultimately damage you also.
The problem is that discerning what is painful to you personally and what is offensive to God is really hard. Differences of opinion and authority get blurred by mutual rebellion and human nature, and the truth often limps behind conflict, long after being forgotten. As Christians, we know that following commandments gives life and our justification comes by grace alone, but it can be easy to confuse the two and your heart become hardened, not just by your atmosphere, but by your individual choices. If we take our eyes off of Jesus and demand that the grace come from us, it wont work because grace can’t come from us anyways.
Paul addresses these concerns in Romans 12 (and most of Romans, honestly) knowing that discernment can be ambiguous. He recognizes that attacks and victories of the Spirit transcend culture, individuality, class, or creed. Evil and goodness are dynamic, and if you have salvation constantly working to dismantle evil, you have evil trying to inevitably snatch goodness away. Truisms that seem vague are for our public good because they are universal, and help us recognize what is in our hearts. Like the company you keep and the places you dwell, we gravitate towards the things that we most idolize, and apart from God, that inevitably leads to poor health.
And yet, the Christian walk is meant to be hard; that part was guaranteed. Along with the promises of God, we’ve got a heavy burden that will squish us if we try to bear it alone. Vagueness isn’t the enemy, because it isn’t our right to understand everything and it should not be our occupation either. If you are willing to sacrifice perfect understanding, then you are humble enough to accept faith and accept a God who is infinitely more beautiful than any of us could ever know. If following Christ wasn’t somewhat vague, it wouldn’t be rewarding or “following” to begin with. Our lives would be fruitlessly vain and we’d die just the same as we had started.
Even with Christian ideological differences, I think it must delight God’s heart to see his family working together in unity. As important as it is to reject falsehood, it is important to forgive others who damage us in the process, whether they rebel against a position of authority or a position of service. If Christians aren’t forgiving one another when we rebel based off of ideological beliefs, then some of the most important works in progress will be rejected in the people who rebel based off of reasons that seem legitimate, but later on turn out to be symbolic. In my own life, I’ve often rebelled against institutions that mimic places where I’ve been hurt, or have left without any kind of spiritual healing. Rebelling against falsehood, I have hurt people in the process. Were I to not forgive them, I would not realize that rebellion isn’t the only means of coming to reconciliation with the past or people that hurt. If I were not able to forgive, then I would not be able to ask forgiveness of them.
We are all just children, even if the questions we are debating are eternal and life-changing. Even if we are certain that what we believe is right, like Galatians 5:23, there is no law against gentleness and self-control, from love. Why punish our siblings who are just as hungry for spiritual food as we are? There is enough fullness and goodness in grace for us all to be fed.