As you progress in your life as a Christian, you are bound to come across Christians with whom you disagree. We all have varying opinions about worship, clothing, food, tithes, missions, alcohol, poverty, politics…the list goes on! And it is easy to let these opinions divide us. It is easy to go into our church on Sunday morning, tightly close the door, and forget that so many others are doing the exact. same. thing. They’re loving God.
Wherever you are, however you do “church” (even if it’s just gathering with a few friends for a devotion once a week), you are setting aside that time to pursue God. And the community with whom you do that is pretty important. That’s why we have the reminders in this passage.
There are two key points that Paul has for us in Romans 14.
- You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we all stand before God’s judgment seat. (vs. 10)
It is not our job to point out the flaws in our Christian community (there are exceptions: Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 1:10-16, James 5:19-20). Not in the community where we worship and not the larger community of believers. Each of us, in our own way, is broken. We are trying to make our way to a life that reflects the love of Christ. There will be mistakes along the way…but these mistakes are (mostly) between us and God…BUT…
- Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (vs. 19)
There are times when our actions aren’t going to build others up. Our actions will, instead, detract from their experience with God. If we are to build communities of love and peace, then we have to be considerate of those around us. In this specific text, Paul talks about eating habits. Today, the conversation may be focused on using foul language, drinking alcohol, or dressing a certain way. If you, as part of your small community, are not considering the spiritual walk of your brothers and sisters, then you are missing out on a key piece of being part of that community!
Consider what it looks like when you take your eyes off of your own needs and consider the spiritual needs of those around you. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says, “Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body…Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:25-32).
If you are struggling to find the balance between speaking the truth in love and following the example of mercy set out by Christ, I suggest seeking God’s will in prayer. There isn’t a checklist about when to confront someone about their sins…or which sins are “too distracting.” This is a matter for your heart and the heart of your community.
Could the sins in your life be negatively affecting your Christian brothers and sisters? Prayerfully consider changes that you may need to make…
Once you’ve taken time with those prayers, consider how God may be calling you to speak the truth in love to others around you.