Friday, February 10, 2012

Romans 14

     Life in community is exhilarating . . . Life in community is exhausting. There is nothing like family (biological or otherwise) that can help me soar to the heights of joy and achievement and there is nothing like family (biological or otherwise) that can crash me to the pits of despair. It is the nature of human gatherings and communities that some of us are more difficult to live with than others. It is the nature of human gatherings and communities that those who are more difficult to live with are generally not aware of the difficulties others are experiencing around them. The alternative to life in community is much worse: isolation, being alone, going through life not belonging.
     Paul is addressing some of these aspects of human community in chapter 14. Some of us choose to not eat certain foods (I am currently off refined sugar and white flour). That is my choice, it is not a religious choice but a health decision. If others want to slowly kill themselves eating that stuff -- OK strike that -- if others choose to eat a different food regimen that is their decision. I could choose to be a vegetarian (a good healthy choice) but as a Christ follower I would be wrong to condemn those who are carnivores. I could choose to abstain from alcohol (another good choice) but, the Bible gives no mandate for teetotalism and I would be wrong to condemn those who have the occasional "adult" beverage. Some people like to follow the "Christian Year" and to observe religious holy days . . . others consider one day in the Lord pretty much like all the others. Who is right? Who is wrong?
     Paul concludes: "for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23)." In other words if your conscience leads you in a specific direction stand for your convictions but don't condemn others if they choose to do otherwise. Obviously, there are some areas that are universal (golden rule; great commandment; great commission; 10 commandments?) and we agree that murder, theft, adultery, etc. are always wrong. But what day we worship, what diet we eat, what festivals we celebrate . . . these are choices of conscience and should not be made into universal requirements.
    Finally, my liberty in a certain area should not be flaunted or distracting for another follower of Christ. If I am with someone who for sound spiritual reasons believes abstinence from alcohol is a spiritual duty: It would be better for me honor that conviction and the person with it and also abstain. Of course the flip side is also true. Someone with that conviction should be willing to allow those with him/her to indulge if they so desire. In the final analysis, life in community should have us watching out for each other but not standing in judgement over each other.

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