Read the Thought Experiment first, if you haven’t already!
I’ve been thinking about Romans 14 this week. It’s easy to miss concrete specific instruction while we wrestle with the big picture. (I’ve heard many discussions over the years about who actually is the weaker brother, and what differences we can apply to this passage. These are important discussions, but not the one I’m having now.)
Today I want to think about the small instructions in this passage, without worrying about whether I’m the weaker brother or the stronger brother. I think Paul gives us some baseline instructions even while we sort out the big questions. (Is this a sin issue; should I confront or warn my sister; etc.)
- Welcome each other. (don’t avoid each other, don’t quarrel)
- Do not despise your brother. (v. 3)
- Do not pass judgment. (Not passing judgment has to do with acknowledging that God is the ultimate authority. It doesn’t mean “don’t disagree with” a brother or sister.) (v. 3-4)
- Be fully convinced. Have strong opinions! ( v. 5)
- Act intentionally for God’s glory. Think about why we do what we do, and how our actions affect others. v. 6-9
- I do not have to confront every problem (or sin) I see in my brother! (v. 10-12)
- Know your culture and what your actions communicate to your brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Your relationships should be characterized by diversity, righteousness, peace, joy, and edification (“mutual upbuilding”).
As Christians, we deliberately welcome people who think differently. We need not be afraid of holding our opinions with confidence, so long as we are humbly seeking to love God and our Christian brothers and sisters biblically. (This passage isn’t talking about how unsaved people are reacting to my choices.) We pursue peace, but we also know why we do what we do, and are especially wanting to connect God’s Word with our actions (biblical wisdom!). We don’t have to apologize or be embarrassed if our choices are different than our neighbors. We can disagree without passing judgment. We shouldn’t be suspicious that others are judging us, just because they think we’re wrong!
It also means that I can pursue Christian friendships without feeling the need to “confront” or discuss our differences all the time. We’re not “overlooking sin” when we don’t confront everything in our sister’s life that we find a problem. On the other hand, discussing differences is great fun when we love and respect each other’s desire to please God and neighbor. I grow when I hear about why you are making the choices you are making. We need to develop a Christian cultural norm that is not suspicious of diversity.
I like how Eugene Peterson says, “So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.“