It is vital that we realize some things are so important that our eternal destiny depends on getting it right. It is equally important to know there are many things we can be mistaken about and it not affect our eternity at all. To make something that is a heaven and hell issue into a matter of judgment is dangerous and can put us into the place of the religious leaders in Jesus day to would bind hand washing but unbind honoring father and mother (Matthew 15:1-9). To take something like eating foods and getting married that God left as matters of liberty and forbid them was to speak for the devil and fall from grace (I Timothy 4:1-4). So it is vital to leave what God placed as a heaven and hell issue as one and to leave things he put as matters of judgment and conscience where he placed them. It is often amazing that we are ready to have a conniption if someone says we don’t really have to do something God said do but see no problem when a church, a preacher or some group makes demands that God never made. It doesn’t make any difference which side of the road a person runs off of, whether it is the right or left, when they run off the road they are still in the ditch.
Look a little closer with me to some things in Romans 14. “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” In chapter 15:1 he will say, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” So the first question that should draw our attention is, “Who are these people who are weak in their faith?” Most folks I know think of themselves as the strong in the faith and those who differ with them as the weak. What does God lead Paul to say in this text about who the weak ones are? “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Did you notice that the ones who are weak are the folks who feel they must be very careful about what they eat. They eat only vegetables. God said they are weak in their faith. When our faith in the Lord becomes so restrictive that we tend to see something wrong with just about everything that comes along it doesn’t mean we are strong in our faith. It means we are weak. He went on to describe the weak as folks who made a distinction between different days and the strong saw every day as alike.
What are we to do with folks in the church where we worship and serve who feel like there is something wrong with just about everything that is in any way different from what was done in the country church where they grew up fifty years ago? Here is God’s answer: “Accept them.” See them as weak in faith and love them, encourage them to grow and become stronger.
But, don’t allow their weakness to become the standard by which you run the church! Don’t allow those matters that are so tormenting to the weak to become the primary topic for the church to study. We can so easily get caught up in a discussion that tends to divide rather than pull us together. When we let some issue that is the domain of the weak become a dividing tool in the church we are letting the devil take control. But God had Paul to say, “The one who eats everything (The strong) must not treat with contempt the one who does not (The weak) and the one who does not eat everything (The weak) must not judge the ones who does (The strong), FOR GOD HAS ACCEPTED THEM.” Who has God accepted? He has accepted both the strong and the weak so don’t let Satan pull us apart. Notice he said to accept them but not to have quarreling over disputable matters. Don’t let someone who is weak in faith and sees something wrong with everything become a leader or spokesmen in the church. It will divide the Lord’s church and lead a whole area to see the church as a bunch of cranks who can’t get along over anything.
This just doesn’t sound workable does it? It seems so against the way we humanly feel and think. We want to straighten everyone out. We want to get them to see it as we do. Some times it is true that “Satan has blinded the eyes of some that they cannot see.” There are also lots of times that we close our own eyes to keep from seeing anything that doesn’t feel right to us because it is different. Paul challenged the church in Thessalonica to put everything to the test and hold on to what is good.
Paul continued, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” It would probably be a good thing for us all to go back and read that again. God wants the strong and the weak in the church. He wants us to talk to each other and even confront each other on different matters, leaving ourselves open that we might be able to see something differently if we listen to those who differ from us. We are all the Lord’s servants, not slaves of a movement or servants of past generations. We aren’t servants of what some preachers have said. We aren’t slaves of what the churches around us say and believe. We all are servants of the Lord and he will handle the judging for us. Thank God none of us have to stand before each other to be judged. We get to stand before Jesus who wants us saved and with him in heaven so badly that he would go to the cross to make it so. We serve the Lord who is our judge, who is able to make all of us stand if we will let him. Sometimes we become so intent on standing on our own two feet that we don’t feel the need of having Jesus make us stand. It is wise to fall on our face before him who paid it all and wonder how in the world he could save and accept someone like me.
(In the next issue we will continue to see the message of Romans 14. It is amazing)