How to stay united even when we don’t agree

Friday, July 12, 2013

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:1-4).

IDEA: We must accept as Christians those whom God accepts, and in non-moral matters, both we and they are answerable only to the Lord.

PURPOSE: We are often upset by the conduct of other people—what they do or what they don’t do.

If you want to get Christians upset, what issues push their buttons?

The use of alcoholic beverages.

The need to home-school children as opposed to education in secular schools.

The place of women in the church.

Civil rights for homosexuals.

These things have one thing in common about them: they are not dealt with directly in the Bible. They are in the “gray area” of life.

How do Christians respond when you say these issues are “gray”?

Most Christians believe they have the “mind of God” on the issue.

Some insist that those who disagree with them are compromisers.

Some question whether those who disagree with them are even genuine Christians: “How could she be a true Christian and think or act that way?”

Paul faces the issue of gray issues squarely in Romans 14:1-4:

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

Notice that those who are “strong” are no better than those who are “weak in the faith.” Paul is not commending “strong” Christians nor criticizing “weak” Christians. These are not value judgments of spiritual vitality. They are merely descriptions of two kinds of Christians.

He does say that whether we are “strong” or “weak,” we should avoid arguing about these matters. They are not to become issues that divide us (Romans 14:1). Why are we to keep away from arguing about these emotional gray issues?

You are not the judge. You are a fellow servant.

The “weak” [those with strong convictions] were not to “judge” the “strong.” To “judge” probably means to doubt whether God has really accepted the other person as a Christian.

Imagine that a wealthy family has hired you as a maid in their home; they have also hired a cook.

To whom is the cook responsible for the way the food is seasoned? You may not like the seasoning, feeling that it spoils the taste of the food. But your tastes are not the criterion by which the cook is judged.

To whom are you responsible for your duties as a maid? You are responsible, not to the cook, but to the people who hired you.

IN THE LIGHT OF PAUL’S EXAMPLE:

You are right to have your convictions about how God wants you to serve Him. You are wrong, however, to criticize another believer who differs from you. You are not the master, but a fellow servant.

Each must say about Christians who differ in gray areas:

“Amazing grace — how sweet the sound! — that saved a wretch like him!” More amazing, “God saved a wretch like me!”

I am answerable to the Lord. That’s not a throwaway line. I must not try to get my brothers and sisters to change their opinions or practices to conform to mine. I must take care to be what God wants me to be, and ask the Lord to keep me from being opinionated about other Christians who may in good conscience differ from me.