Being Church Differently Than Others

Accept anyone who is weak in (the) faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues.  One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables.  One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. Who are you to criticize another’s household slave?  Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand. For the Lord is able (for God has the power) to make him stand.

One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind.  Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord (but whoever does not observe the day, it is to the Lord that he does not observe it).  Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, yet he thanks God.For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord.  Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living.  But you, why do you criticize your brother?  Or you, why do you look down on your brother?  For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written:

As I live, says the Lord,every knee will bow to Me,
and every tongue will give praise to God.

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another.  Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.  (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men.

So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food. Everything is clean, but it is wrong for a man to cause stumbling by what he eats. It is a noble thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother stumble (offended or weakened).  Do you have a conviction (faith)?  Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction (faith), and everything that is not from a conviction (faith) is sin.
-Romans 14

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In Christianity, we often get caught in the trap of saying, "You are either with us or against us".  Even the first disciples were tempted to think that.  If someone is doing it differently than you and they are for Christ, then they are not against you and you are not against them.  They are your brother, or sister.

Romans 14, echoes the idea that Christ is the center of Christianity.

We live in him, so don't criticize other Christians.

This is what some of the Bible translations say Romans 14 is about:

  • The Law of Liberty & The law of Love (HCSB & NKJV)
  • How to Treat Weak Believers & Act in Love (ISV)
  • Do Not Pass Judgement on One Another & Do Not Cause Another to Sumble (ESV)
  • Welcoming each other like Christ (CEB)
  • The Danger of Criticism (NLT)
  • Don't Criticize Others & Don't Cause Problems for Others (CEV)
  • Cultivating Good Relationships (MSG)
  • Exhortation to Mutual Forbearance & Exhortation for the Strong not to Destroy the Weak (NET)
  • The Weak and the Strong (NIV)
  • Do Not Judge Another & Do Not make Another Stumble (NRSV)

Do you criticize or judge other Christians in regards to how they live out their faith, worship, or fellowship?  The scripture is clear, that we are not allowed to do that.  Debate and discussion are fine though.  In Christ, their is liberty and there is love.  In Christ, we forebear with one another, out of his love.

When you criticize another Christian, you are not recognizing the body of Christ and are criticizing Christ.  So, we can not do that.  I am the first one that needs to hear that.

Christ is the center and he holds together the various believers of different traditions or faith-practices.  The word for each one who is different is not to impose what is happening with you, in a co-dependent fashion, on those around you.
"Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind." (Rom. 14:5c)
You have become convinced in your own mind.  Congratulations.  We celebrate your walk with the Lord and your expression of that walk in your life.

But, you have no grounds or basis for trying to impose your ways on others.  Some of us see differences as not good.  So, we end up shunning those who do things differently or acting out with obsessive critical words towards other believers that are not loving or generous.

We want to share Christ and share the gospel or good news.  We share it and then encourage the person who receives it.  Pretty simple.

But, in matters of practice, practicing faith, we each can be differently persuaded and respect or give honor to one another, in Christ and out of reverence to Christ.  

Have you ever heard the saying or seen the phenomena, that the least tolerant person of something is the person who used to do that very thing they are no so intolerant of now?  We don't want to be like that, and in faith matters, Romans 14 instructs us not to be like that.

"Just stop it", yes; but this is not the new legalism, but following Christ.  If and when you are tempted to judge, to criticize, to control; it is a sign that you need more of the Lord in you.  You see or hear and are tempted to criticize.  That is the moment when you need to say, "Help me Jesus", and let him help you resist the temptation and forbear.

What if the Christian life is walking with Christ, one day at a time?  He is more and more convincing me of certain things, which he is the center of.  I am not following my self or fads, but I am following him.

There is something to practicing the presence of God.  The life is all about being in him.  He wants this and he will help you.  The Helper will help you.  It is the only way to live the authentic Christian life.

There is no shame in following Jesus.  There is no shame in saying, "I don't know, but I am following him".  I am profoundly impacted by his words.  He said, "love one another", to me; and of himself, he said, "I will build my church".

In Christ, there is freedom and liberty.  Also, in Christ, there is love.  That means we are free to explore life and faith and practice, in Christ.  It also means, that my journey is not your journey and I want to honor or respect, as an expression of Christ's love in me; your different journey.

I not only have the freedom to be on a different journey than you, but I also do not judge or criticize your journey and insist that you get into the journey I am on.  There is one Christ of all Christians and we are all on a journey with him.  When we meet one another, Christ is what we have in common.

We meet under the head and through his heart.  I forbear with you and you will forbear with me.  We are different, but have the same savior and Lord, who may be leading us differently.

Those of us who are enamored with the concept of discipleship need this word also.  Jesus may insist on something for you, but I can not.  He is our master.  We are brothers and sisters, called to love and forebear with one another.

We are not called to micro-manage, but to love.  We are sheep that the good shepherd is leading.  He has many kinds of sheep and many parts of his flocks.  You and I are sheep that each look to him for leading.

It is very freeing to not need to try to control others through criticism or micro-management.  I can say, "This is how he is leading me.  How can we walk together, in and with him?"