Confusion, tension, fighting has been around a long time….I have come to believe that for our day/ in this time/ the most important word in the book of Romans is PEACE. Peace to overcome tension. Do you know LuLu? if she spots my van coming towards her as she is walking down the road, she ALWAYS [gives me the peace sign], if she spots me across the Sumas RV Park she’ll get my attention and [give me the peace sign]. I call LuLu the earth lady. She keeps saying I call her a hippie…. She has captured the message of Romans: PEACE.
Adopt PEACE as a way of life. Peace with God, Peace with our brothers and sisters. Peace within. A state of being settled. Peace without ~ in the church, your community. The surprising truth for many new Christians is that you can achieve peace without everyone thinking exactly alike. There is room for different opinions, different understandings, different practices. It is God that judges the heart of each one of us, and our job is to NOT play God. At the end of today’s message some important principles.
Listen to Rom. 14:1… online I can find 1000s of posters, sayings, quotations ~ “Don’t judge me.” “Don’t judge me” is what people seem to most often get out of these verses. I understand why ~ there is a cry for acceptance and love. /a craving for peace.
Here’s the problem ~ “Don’t judge me” often means “I am who I am and I’ve made my decisions and I have no intention of changing so just leave me alone.”
I have no problems with a personal rallying cry, “Don’t judge me,” IF you also live out the rest of the scripture. Read the rest of the text: Over and over, especially as you get into Rom. 14:6-8, you’ll find the highly significant phrase “to the Lord.” I have no problems with you having different judgments from me, adopting patterns I find uncomfortable as long as you are convinced in your mind (that’s found in Rom. 14:5) that what you are doing is God honoring.... There are pastors who take a much different view from me on marrying people who are living together, or people who have been divorced. I respect the differences, but I am absolutely convinced my decisions are honoring God, even as I respect those who come to different conclusions. I only want to see consistency… It’s fine if you live a life style that seems contrary to me as to what God would want, after all, who am I to judge, but be prepared to let me or other Christians ask how it is God honoring. I hope “do not judge” isn’t code for “do not ask.” This is a key to this scripture, not my opinion vs. your opinion, but what does God want for each of us… Take to heart Rom. 14:8 READ.
Here’s another thing about Rom. 14:1. Listen carefully: “Accept him whose faith is weak…” The focus of this scripture is to not judge other people ~ it is a call for self-examination as to how you treat other people. Do you know who the strong Christian is? Strong and weak are relative terms! YOU are the strong. If you are living in the Lord, you don’t need to worry about being judged because God is your judge! You have a measure of strength in the Lord.
Who is weak? Anyone who has less experience than you, less advantages than you. Perhaps the people who struggle with issues that are no longer your struggles…May we be a community of faith that sees ourselves with a measure of maturity, who live for the Lord. “Accept him whose faith is weak” is a rallying cry to man-up in our faith and take up the banner of Christ without judging those who are weak in faith, who see the world differently. “ACCEPT” is the first word ~ it must be important. Peace comes through acceptance of others who are different. Accept means to open your heart and your home to others. The greatest incentive for accepting others you don’t understand? READ Rom. 14:3b. Accept others because God has accepted you! Be amazed you are accepted by God! Never take it for granted. That would be like taking your spouse for granted!
A key is found in the phrase “Disputable matters” ~ things like eating meat, drinking wine, and keeping special days. These matters—while important—should not stand in the way of our relationship with other believers. I have 7th Day Adventist friends that probably think I’m the “weak” Christian for eating meat, but I think they are the “weak” ones. But God loves us both and we both live “to the Lord.” In disputable matters we are not to “pass judgment” ~ we are not to come to a negative conclusion about other Christians on the basis of their outward behavior in disputable areas.
Here is one person’s application of Rom. 14:1-4: “It’s time for a birthday party and you’re wondering what to serve. Maybe your idea is to cook some rib-eye steaks, lobster tail, prepare a nice casserole, …and a nice dessert. That sounds good to me. Or maybe you prefer to buy some premium tofu, put it in a bowl, pour gravy on it (or whatever it is you do to tofu), and serve it with some bean sprouts and soy milk. For dessert you decide to take some bean curd and dip it into chocolate. That’s not exactly my preference, but it doesn’t matter at all. Here is Paul’s point: If you want to cook some steaks, cook some steaks. If you want to have tofu and chocolate-covered bean curd, have at it. It doesn’t matter to God! He’s not up in heaven checking your menu to see if it passes muster. Eat whatever you like. And don’t feel that you need to explain yourself to anyone else. (Ray Pritchard)
Peace with others begins by being comfortable in your own skin. Rom. 14:5 says, Have your own convictions READ. “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” To be fully convinced means that after looking at all the evidence and considering the various views on a given issue, you have come to a settled conclusion in your own mind. It does not mean your personal preference or wishful thinking… It assumes an honest investigation coupled with an open mind. “To the Lord” is said over and over again …
Do you want to eat meat? Eat it for Jesus is your Lord. Do you prefer to be a vegetarian? Have your bean sprouts and give thanks to God. Are you a total abstainer? If so, rejoice that you know Jesus Christ. Do you drink wine with your dinner? Give thanks to God that Jesus is your Lord. If Jesus is your Lord, you can make your own decisions, knowing that he alone will be your judge. Man-up and face Christ as your judge. It’s fine to tell the world “Do not judge me” as long as you are not including God on the list! Come to a settled conclusion/conviction of how to live your life by asking for God’s guidance, not your whims, not your desires, but God himself!
I end with five principles that come from this passage:
1. Christians Often Disagree With Each Other. New believers are often surprised by this. I’ll often get questions about details of how to live the faith, and for many issues I have to have a lot of wiggle room. I cannot give black and white answers to everything! After you’ve been around a while it’s a given that people come to different conclusions.
2. Disagreement is Not Always Wrong or Sinful. Many of us have a hard time with this point especially when we feel passionately about some secondary issue. If you have strong feelings about men wearing beards or about Fox News, you’ll have a hard time accepting those who either disagree with you or simply don’t care about “your” issue one way or the other. For example, one of my personal struggles is to understand in the world of politics how good Christian people can vote for politicians that support abortion…I have to “not judge” and leave it between them and God… no politician is perfect, so the conviction of your heart may be different from mine…
3. Distinguish Between Primary & Secondary Issues. A primary issue deals with a central doctrine of the Christian faith (that’s why I included the Apostles creed today as a summary of primary issues). Primary issues include the authority of the Bible, the deity of Jesus, salvation by grace…. If you argue with me that there are many paths to salvation and the cross is only one way, that is a deal breaker for me in terms of declaring we are Christian brothers… On central issues there is no compromise. Ultimately, you either believe in the virgin birth or you don’t.
The sad truth is that most of our debates have nothing to do with primary issues.
4. Accepting Others Requires Humility. One person’s definition of humility: “understanding that God is God and you are not.” (Ray Pritchard). Humble people are free from the burden of playing God for other people. It’s ok for Christians to not understand everyone. Once you decide that you can let God be God, you can relax and let him deal with other Christians regarding the secondary issues. What I have noticed over the years:
1. God blesses people I disagree with.
2. God sometimes blesses people I wouldn’t bless if I were God.
I know one pastor that to me he is so arrogant I can hardly stand him. And he is the pastor of a large church, and I don’t get it. And humility forces me to admit that if God is God, he is free to bless anyone he chooses, and he doesn’t have to ask my permission before doing it.
5. Let God Deal With Those Who Disagree With You. Romans says, “Don’t judge another believer.” Why? Because God is his judge. If your friend who eats meat has made a bad choice, God can show him better than you can. If he smokes, God can convict him or his doctor can convince him. If he has some strange view of the end times, God can deal with him if he needs to be dealt with. Don’t get in God’s way. Let him deal with people who disagree with you. And in the meantime, don’t forget to treat them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Peace is the goal. Make every effort to accept those who think differently. A healthy church is a church that has room for people who have different opinions on secondary issues. Form your own convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ, and allow others the same courtesy and responsibility to go directly to the Bible, to Jesus Christ, through the Spirit of God. Amen.