Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost – September 17, 2017
- Old Testament & Psalm: Exodus 14:19-31 and Psalm 114
- New Testament: Romans 14:1-12
- Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35
Romans 14:1-12 | New Living Translation (NLT)
14 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”
12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.
Paul continues his letter to the Romans – there has been a new theme. Earlier in the letter we heard about life in the Spirit vs. our natural self, but Paul gets into some very practical teaching now. In many ways, this new theme picks up in chapter 12 – remember again that Paul was writing a letter, the chapter and verse headings were added much later so that we could easily identify them.
In chapter 12, Paul writes: “Don’t think you are better than you really are.” Paul is teaching about humility and the way we treat others. Then he writes: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” Paul echoes the teachings of Jesus. Bless those who persecute you…live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. This is good stuff. In chapter 13, Paul writes “Owe nothing to anyone-except for the obligation to love. All of this leads up to our reading for this week.
There are times that it seems the church is a very judgmental place. Not only do we judge those outside the church, but we judge those inside the church. Paul says that we should accept other believers who are weak in faith…don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. These are powerful words. Several weeks ago, I preached on forbearance. Forbearance is the action of refraining from what is your legal right. I’ve experienced it way too many times – believers being judgmental of other believers – especially in matters that are not important. I think this is what Paul is getting at. It doesn’t really matter what side of the fence you are on a particular issue. Paul was talking about meat sacrificed to idols. We could talk about musical styles, styles of dress, or even whether we should drink alcohol or not. [As a aside, as a Wesleyan pastor, I don’t drink alcohol. I never had and don’t have the desire to do so. Those who desire to be in leadership in a local Wesleyan Church, must agree not to do so as well. Yet, I know there are believers whom I respect very much who do not have the same convictions. They believe it is OK for a Christian to drink, but as the Bible says, in moderation – meaning not drunkenness. The Bible does call out drunkenness as a sin.]
This is what – I believe – that Paul is getting at. There are certain things that we will disagree about on this side of heaven that don’t make a difference in whether we get to heaven or not. Paul writes:
Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong.
He goes on to tell us that whatever we do should honor the Lord. I think this is important. Too many times we ask the question in a way that asks how close can I get to sin and still not sin, but perhaps we are asking the question the wrong way. What if we asked it this way: “Is what I am doing honoring the Lord?” or as I’ve heard “Will doing this contribute to holiness?”
Paul concludes this thought by saying:
So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…
As I close this out, I want us to remember the meaning of forbearance…the action of refraining…I know that I need to learn this better. There are time when I am not as forbearing as I would like to be. I am asking the Lord to help me do that better and that is my prayer for you as well.