FRIDAY, JUNE 9
SCRIPTURE: Romans 14
Unity has always supposed to be a characteristic of God’s people. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said that our unity as Christ followers is part of the evidence of His reality. Unity has been and continues to be most important.
But the people of God have always seemed to struggle with unity. In the Old Testament there were rebellions against Moses. Later the nation of Israel would literally divide into the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom. In the New Testament, almost every letter Paul wrote to individual churches had some mention of conflicts, divisions, and disunity that existed within that particular church. Even the joyous letter to the Philippian church had hard words to two women who were at odds and, as a result, were splitting the church.
When we get to Romans 14, we shouldn’t be too surprised that Paul has to deal with some issues of disunity in the church at Rome. Interestingly enough, Paul attacks this problem from a couple of different directions.
For example, it seems there were some folks who ate only vegetables and there were some other people who enjoyed some meat with their vegetables. No big problem, right? No, they were using their dietary decisions to judge others. The vegetarians were convinced they were much better than the meat eaters. And the meat eaters were judging the vegetarians.
But it didn’t stop there. There were some folks who thought that one particular day of the week was better than all the other days of the week. And there were others that thought all days were of equal value.
Before we giggle and shake our heads at these immature, misguided Romans, let’s remember that we are all capable of such comparisons and judgments. In fact, most of us who have been in church for any length of time have probably chosen a side in a goofy argument that really didn’t matter.
So, Paul’s approach in the first half of this letter is to tell those folks to quit judging each other. In other words, they should quit fussing and fighting about stuff that really didn’t matter. God is the ultimate judge and judging is His business, not ours.
But then Paul takes a much different approach beginning in verse 13. Basically, he makes this incredible statement. If you are doing something that is causing someone else a problem in the church, you should stop doing that. Let me stop and say this doesn’t apply to the non-negotiables of Scripture. There are some most important things that we should never compromise on. There are some most important thing that we should never change just because someone is offended.
But there are other things, the non-essentials if you will, that we should be glad to change if it makes it somehow better for someone else. I know this sets us up to be taken advantage of. But at the end of the day, the immature always take advantage of the mature. On the other side of this issue, if we are not willing to acquiesce on the non-essentials, we probably will never have an opportunity to help the immature move toward maturity on any issue, non-essential or non-negotiable.