It is difficult at times to distinguish what we believe and accept from what scripture actually says. Because we believe them both we often assume that all we believe is part of scripture. That can apply to our view of politics as well as other areas of life.
This is not a new problem, but one which Christians struggled with in the days of the apostles. Often the background to this was Christians who were of a Jewish background and Christians who from a Gentile background. Because they were brought up Jews, many would restrict what they ate or would do certain things on certain days. The discussion as Paul presented it in Romans 14 centered around what people ate as well as what days they considered to be special.
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 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. 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.” (Romans 14:1-4 NIV)
The standard that must be maintained at all times is not to quarrel over different opinions when there is nothing definitive to be found in scripture. The case in point was those who would eat anything including meat and those who would only eat vegetables. We face similar disagreements among Christians today. Notice how we are to deal with this type of difference: don’t judge each other. We must always keep in mind that God has accepted those who eat meat as well as those who don’t eat meat.
The same applies to considering a day as ‘special’ or ‘holy’ (this is where we get the English word ‘holiday’ – a holy day). Surely we should treat all days alike, many will say. But notice what we find about this:
“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. 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.” (Romans 14:5-6)
In Paul’s view, eating meat and keeping some days as ‘special’ are interlinked. If you do or don’t keep a day, live each day for the Lord. Whether we do or do not does not affect our relationship with God.
There are two principles that we must always keep in mind. First, stop judging each other. (Romans 14:13). Realise that when there is not a right and wrong that we have the freedom in Christ to evaluate it and to live accordingly.
Second, don’t do anything that might cause a fellow Christian to sin or lose their faith. At times this may mean that we don’t do something that we are convinced is not sinful. Because of their weak faith we do not want to destroy them. We must always act towards each other in love.
Although we can get worked up over trivial matters, the clear instruction in scripture is that we must love each other and seek to live in peace.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:17-19)
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Readings for next week: Romans 7-14