Hunkered Down Devotion

Romans 14:1-4;10-12 (Voice)
It’s high time that you welcome all people weak in the faith without debating and disputing their opinions.

2 Here’s the issue: One person believes that nothing’s off the menu; he’ll eat any food put before him. But there’s another believer—we’ll call him the weaker—who eats only vegetables because the meat is tainted through contact with an idol. 3 If you are an eater of all things, do not be condescending to your vegetarian brother or sister. In turn, those who abstain from certain foods on religious principles should not judge your brothers and sisters who eat meat—if God has accepted them, you have no reason to reject them. 4 How could you think for a moment that you have the right to judge another person’s servant? Each servant answers to his own Master, and he will either stand or fall in His presence. The good news is that he will stand because the Master is able to make it so.

10 So how is it that you continue to judge your brother? How is it possible for you to look down on a sister? We will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, so I promise,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow down to Me.
Every tongue will confess to God.”
12 So every one of us, regardless of our eating habits, should expect to give an account for our own lives to God.

There are times, when I am particularly frustrated with the ‘brotherly love’ being demonstrated in our house, that I institute the ‘no-name’ rule.  It is a simple, but difficult rule, for our boys, essentially, that they aren’t allowed to use any of their brother’s names when speaking to us.

Of course, even when I try and institute the rule, it is never followed, because brothers just can’t help but point out all of each other’s faults.  As an only child, it was news to me, but that apparently is a rule!

I was thinking about that because what Paul is talking about here in Romans 14 is the same thing that happens between siblings.  The easiest way to justify yourself is to point to someone standing next you and say, ‘well, at least I’m not like them!’.

This logic, when applied by our children rarely – if ever – works on us parents.  We might be momentarily distracted, but we still return to the issue at hand and deal with whatever behavior or issue we were trying to address initially.  No matter how many times we are greeted with, ‘but my brother did this….’

The logic of judging and pulling down our sisters and brothers does not work any better with God.  In this chapter Paul addresses two matters of conscience, eating meat sacrificed to idols and celebrating certain ‘holy days’ or not.  He takes an interesting stance, which is to say he says something like ‘it doesn’t matter, unless you think it does.’

What he is saying is that there is nothing wrong with eating the meat (which was high quality, but at a lower price because it had been part of idol worship), but if it bothers your conscience and troubles your heart, don’t do it.  Likewise, mark holy days on the calendar or not, whatever puts your heart and mind at ease and in the right state of mind to worship and serve God.

Where Paul does make it clear that there is a strong prohibition is against judging any of our brothers or sisters who come to a different conclusion on any of these matters of conscience.  Since the issues Paul describes are not usually ones we struggle with, you might wonder how this idea applies to us.

The easiest way to understand it is by thinking of the opposite.   There are things that are essentials of the faith that all Christians should be able to agree on: Jesus as the means of our salvation; God’s love for us, etc….. These are what I have heard called ‘salvation issues’, questions where the answer is of eternal importance.

When it isn’t a salvation issue, Paul seems to be saying the most important thing, the only true prohibition is that we should not judge someone for the choice they are led to.  We are reminded that judging is not our job.  It isn’t our job because we are grossly unqualified for it and it needs to be left to God.  Instead, we are called to share and extend the grace to others that we wish to receive ourselves.

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer: Lord, when we are tempted to judge and condemn others, remind us of your grace for us and teach us to share it with others.  Amen.

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