Lesson 284: "Can You Live Among Them"?
Can you live among them without judging? Existing along side a differing opinion was Paul’s concern in chapters 14-15 of Romans. How many different opinions will there be in a Christian gathering? As many as individuals that attend! No two people totally agree on every subject especially when it concerns the Bible. Paul says that if someone eats only veggies while you prefer meat leave them alone. The reasons some of the Christians in Romans did not eat meat is unstated but perhaps it goes back to not eating the meat that had been offered to idols. The believers’ scruples were not Paul’s point but rather existing along side one with a differing opinion or understanding of the Law. This also goes for the “day” chosen for each to worship the Lord. Some say one day is sacred and others consider everyday alike. We are taught throughout the Bible to do all things to the glory of God and this was what Paul was trying to teach. He adds that “one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:1-8). If you think someone’s thinking and actions are totally against the teaching of God’s Word then yes, correct them; without looking down on them and without judging them; “for we will all stand before God’s judgment seat and each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10-12).
Christians are at different levels of spiritual maturity and all have different back grounds that decide their attitudes and practices. Relationships with other believers usually involve special problems that require discussion; harmonious discussions and not heated arguments. Paul commanded the believers to accept those being weak in faith; the word “accept” used here means to “keep taking to yourself”. To “keep taking to yourself” means simply to continue witnessing through scripture and godly conduct. This does not mean trying to change another’s views or opinions by brow-beating and quarreling with them about it. Any Christian tempted to judge another believer must face Paul’s question; “who are you to judge someone else’s servant”, meaning we are all servants of God.
Can you live among them without hindering? Paul warned against causing others to stumble thus hindering their spiritual growth, stating that one is free to live in accord with convictions not shared by others but always in accord with God’s Word. The subject of eating “idol meat” continues in 1st Corinthians. Paul explained that many believers were knowledgeable enough about God and were certain that idols meant nothing so therefore they could eat “the meat of idols” without harm and be free from punishment. Paul stressed the unity factor and said that all did not possess this knowledge and the weaker believer would stumble over the belief of the stronger Christian. The weaker ones had not come to the point of indifference on eating this meat and to them it was a sin (Rom. 14:23, 1 Cor. 8:7-8). Paul suggested that the solution be found in love and not knowledge! Does this strike a cord within you? Do you have such great knowledge of the Bible and live so close to God that you have grown calloused to the needs of weaker Christians? Do you go your own righteous way not noticing that others are watching and a few are “doing as you do”? Is “doing as you do” always a good thing”? Are you, by example, encouraging a weaker brother to join in, even though he cannot do so with the clear conscience before god that the knowledgeable Christian enjoys? To be arrogantly indifferent to the need of the weaker believer results in sin not only against them (because you wound their weak conscience) but also against God of whose Body we are all members.
Since most of us do not deal with the “meat of the idols” perhaps I can bring this closer to home and clear it up a bit. There are people who work tirelessly in the church and seem to relish in their duties. Others may follow their example and work along side of the “strong Christian” but have not found any joy what-so-ever in their service. Try asking your co-worker if they are “having fun yet” and if you detect a sign, any sign, that they may feel ill at ease, inferior or bound by duty, talk to them! Tell them where your joy and energy comes from. Bring them closer to the knowledge through love so they too might enjoy the freedom of Christian service. Paul also commanded that the strong should not seek to please themselves; should not be self-centered, but must show concern of the spiritual welfare of others, especially the weak. Helping others is for the good of the weak; to build them up (Rom. 14:19). This is the example Jesus left since even He did not please Himself but came to do the will of the Father who sent Him (Jh. 4:34), and to please Him (Jh. 5:30, 8:29). Since the goal of interpersonal relationships among Christians is a unified glorifying of God Paul concluded his commands in Romans 15:7 with “accept one another”! This is the same command he opened this discussion with (Rom. 14:1). Our Model is Jesus who accepted us (not just the strong) and received us when we were all powerless (weak) and ungodly. Certainly Christians can receive others who differ with them on nonessential matters so that we like Jesus and Paul can bring praise to God.
Paul was straight forward, blunt and forceful yet he had a deep concern for the feelings of others and an ability to use effective principles of interpersonal relations. He lived among them! Following the lead of Paul and Jesus Christ, can we live among them without prejudice and partiality?
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