Moments in the life of a Pastor

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10 Practical Peace – Part 1

Romans 14:1-8

1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

In Romans chapter 14 Paul calls Christians to address the attitudes and actions that threaten to fracture the flock. The believers he was writing to were divided over special days and diets. Their big issue was whether or not it was ok for a Christian to eat meat that might have been offered to an idol before it was brought home from the butcher. Paul reminds them that the food shouldn’t be the real focus, what really matters revolves around relationship. It is here that Paul offers us help in knowing what to believe and how to behave when God’s Word seems to allow for some differences in application. What does God want in the grey areas? How do we handle people who follow the same principles but have different practices? Paul starts by introducing us to two different groups in the church, the weak and the strong. A “weak” believer is one who hasn’t fully grasped the extent of their freedom in Christ; their conscience becomes consumed by preferences that are not paramount. In this group were Jewish Christians who refrained from certain foods and observed certain days in their attempt to remain loyal to the Mosaic Law. A “strong” brother or sister is the one who can exercise his freedom in Christ with a clear conscience.  While one faction followed a strict diet and felt that some days were more spiritual than others, the other group only had one hang up, the first group. The ‘easy’ solution to this problem would have been to form two churches, ‘The Church of the Carnivores’ and ‘The First Church of fruits and vegetables. But Paul was committed to the nobler, though far more difficult, solution of submitting to the Savior and serving each other. As you read through what Paul preached to the churches in Colossae, Corinth and Rome you see some specific groups of people: The sensitive and insecure, the strong and insensitive and the stubborn and immovable. Not much has changed in the church since Paul penned these words, we still see these three same groups today and we have to ask ourselves which one do I often belong to? The issue many no longer be focused on food but the struggle over frivolous things continues. We seem to struggle with two tendencies, we love to compare and we like to control. It’s easily to fall into the thinking that the way we do things is truth, that our interpretation is the only correct one, and that those who differ from us are wayward and wrong. When we do we try to control and conform how other believers think and behave. For some this is very outward in nature but for many they secretly judge others according to their spiritual standards. Differences don’t have to divide but many buy into the saying: “to dwell above with saints we love, oh that will be such glory, to dwell below with those we know…well, that’s a different story.” We belong to God’s family, His plan is not for us to fight and have fallings out with each other, if we are to be a community united in Christ then we have to change, we need to:

  • Lose our arrogant attitudes

Those who clung to the Law were condemning those who were living in liberty, and they were completing the circle of condemnation by despising them right back. But Paul called both groups to stop condemning and start caring: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” The word, “accept” means to receive kindly, it’s the idea of opening up your heart and your home, it’s including others in your circle of acquaintances. We’re not to just to put up with each other but to extend family fellowship. This is also a present imperative, meaning it’s a command to make this a continual characteristic of our lives. The key here is the phrase, “disputable matters.” This is the debatable or doubtful, the gray areas of the Christian life. Scripture specifies three areas: those that are right, those that are wrong, and issues of freedom and preference. Yet our tendency is to argue over the freedom issues while we forget and forsake the clear commands. If two Christians agree on 99% they will usually focus and define themselves based on that which they disagree on. Instead of finding our commonality in Christ and His clear commands we argue and attack each other over the pointless. When we do we fall into the trap of judging others, which means to come to a negative conclusion about other Christians on the basis of their outward behavior in disputable matters. In our effort to be right over the gray areas we violate the clear commands like love other. Verse 3 reveals that the real problem had nothing to do with meat, it was really an acceptance issue: “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” But instead of acceptance they were consumed with contempt, this is more than just looking down on another’s, it means to so utterly despise that they regarded them as nothing. Also the word “condemn” carries the connotation of punishment reserved for those who have broken God’s laws. We end up treating others like trash to be thrown away, punishing people in an attempt to point them toward our preference. When we condemn we call into question their character, and often make assumptions that are exaggerated, erroneous and dangerously damaging. Instead of peace with people we polarized because we take a disputable matter and turned it into a moral issue. Yet Paul reminds us at the end of verse 3 not to condemn and judge because: “God has accepted them.” There is grace in the gray areas so don’t try to ostracize the one whom God has accepted. Instead of trying to show that we are right we should make sure that our relationships are right. We need to learn to agree to disagree for the sake of harmony in God’s house. When we judge we try to take the place of God in others’ lives: “Who are we to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Christians will be called to account by Christ not His creation and verse 4 reminds us that we will stand strong and be accepted because of what Christ has accomplished for us. We will not stand based on our behavior but His blood, no Christian will collapse because all condemnation has been removed. Today our disagreements are rarely focused of food which to us seems silly. No we are caught up with much more mature matters, like music styles, carpet color, parenting preferences, and politics! Today many have become serious over the silly, instead of getting serious over the things that the Master says matter we have become focused on the pointless and the petty. We need to avoid passing judgment in the “disputable matters.” You don’t have to like it, look like it, or listen to it, but don’t look down on those whom God has accepted. You are not better than others, neither are they better than you, it was Augustine who said, “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity.” Second we are called to:

  • Live for the Lord alone

We need to lose our arrogant attitudes and accept those whom God has accepted and the best way to do that is to live for the Lord alone. When you recognize that we’re all on the same road we are just at different points in the journey you will give God’s gift of grace. As we commit to live for the Lord alone, we should strive to see and serve our fellow saints as members of the same team. The truth is that we are all growing in grace, none of us has arrived. Instead of wasting our time condemning other Christians we should be giving careful thought and prayerful consideration to all the principles taught in the Word of God. Verse 5 tells us that each believer must be “fully convinced in their mind.” we’re not to automatically adopt the convictions of others but listen to the clear conviction of Christ. Many of us are quick to offer personal judgments on believers who don’t meet our personal standards but verse 6 serves as a great reminder that none of us has a corner on commitment. As a result we don’t need to questioning other believer’s motives: “He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” They both thanked God for the food they received, they both live out their convictions as an expression of their devotion to Jesus. They were both striving to serve the same Savior, it’s when they took their eyes off of Him and put them on the preferences and practices of the people around them that the problems began. If we truly believe in God’s right to rule, then let Him deal with those who disagree with us. So stop wasting your time trying to straighten others out, love the Father and His family. What arrogant attitudes do you need to lose? Who do you need to accept, and are you living for the Lord alone?