Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Today’s Devotional Tidbit – May 31, 2006
Romans 14
Can’t We All Just Get Along?

After hearing last week about the doctor who threw his kids off a balcony, my heart began aching more deeply for those who are so full of hopelessness. Christians have the power to correct this rampant hopelessness that runs through our world. But do we use that power or do we keep it hidden within our church buildings? Believing that we sometimes decide to be more comfortable than evangelistic, I have climbed onto my soapbox to write the following:

There are different types of people in every collective group. These groups may consist of school students, church members, or employees. Everyone within these groups won’t think alike. How do those differences affect the objectives for each group, learning, worshipping God, or completing the mission of the employer? Such differences can cause trouble. One type of people may believe themselves to be better than others; this was the case in the Roman church in the mid-first century.

There were two types of people in the Roman church, the weak and the strong. The “weak” were those Christians from a Jewish background who thought it was sinful to eat certain foods. These Jewish Christians also held some days to be more important than others. The “strong” were mostly Christians from a non-Jewish background and some of the more progressive minded Jewish Christians. These Christians thought all foods were clean and that all days were equal. The idea is that one type of Christian thought there was more freedom found through Christ and the other group thought that there was less freedom and felt bound by some traditions. Does this sound familiar to anyone? 

Paul spends Romans 14 talking to both these types of people. Paul specifically states in Romans 14:3 that both types of people should treat the other with respect. He goes on to say in Romans 14:7 that none of us live for ourselves but for God. Paul is saying that each Christian, whether “weak” or “strong” should put God and his desire first. The people of God should do all they can to accomplish God’s desires above their own. What is God’s desire? He wants people to come back to him. Look at Luke 15 and those wonderful stories. Look at 2 Peter 3:9 and God’s desire that everyone go to Heaven. We should do all we can to help God’s will happen. Sometimes, helping God’s will to happen in regards to unchurched people means becoming a bit uncomfortable with our methods. If I step outside my comfort zone to win some for Christ, then let God be praised. Paul said the same in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Six times in that passage he says he changed his ways in order that he may win some to Christ. That’s what it’s all about folks, winning people for Christ.  

The non-technical term for insanity is: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If doing church like the 1950s doesn’t exactly have our never churched friends and relatives banging down the doors to our congregations, then maybe something has to change. Maybe we need to offer what the people want in regards to closer personal relationships through small groups. Maybe we need to worship in the heart language of the people we are trying to reach. Maybe we just need to be led by God’s desire and Paul’s desire to reach out to people who don’t intimately know our savior Jesus Christ. Maybe we just need to get back to the Bible and do God’s will.

Romans 14:13-15 has often been misinterpreted in order to keep anything from changing in our churches. In the original language, the words “stumbling block” and “obstacle” refer to something that keeps people from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. An “obstacle” or “stumbling block” is something that trips someone up and causes them to stay away from or fall away totally from Christianity. The idea in Romans 14:15 which states that we shouldn’t cause our brother “pain, offense, or distress” is speaking to the “strong” which were looking down on the “weak” to the point of forcing them to do something against their conscience. Then later in that verse, Paul says not to do anything to “destroy” your brothers and sisters. Here again is a reinforcement of the idea that Paul’s concern is the spiritual destruction of our fellow Christians. This passage should never be taken out of its context. It should not be used to keep any change from ever taking place. This passage should be used to keep people from treating others with disrespect and with actions that can endanger one’s soul. Let us always look at the correct context of passages.

My plea is that we open our minds and hearts, maybe even just a few millimeters, in order to accomplish the will of God. The “weak” and “strong” together, can help rid our communities of hopelessness! And remember, God loves both the “strong” and the “weak.”  Now excuse me as I step down from my soapbox.
Yours in Christ,
Brian Humek

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