Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What to Do When You Disagree With a Brother [Romans 14:1-15:13] - (III)

We come now to the heart of the first paragraph of Paul's instructions on how to deal with a brother with whom you disagree on a secondary matter. Before you read this, you really need to read section one here and then section two here.


Once you have read those, come back here and note with me the first step in solving the disunity caused by differences of opinion on non-primary issues.

A. Stop the Heart Sins that Lead to Disunity (:1-3)

This is made up of two parts:

1. Strong Ones: Do not despise the weak!

We have seen this already in verse 3: “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains...”

To despise means to treat with contempt: “a powerful feeling of dislike toward someone considered to be worthless or inferior”[1] It means you cannot loathe, spurn, or look down on the weak. The strong are tempted to gather in their little huddle and chuckle at what they consider to be the immaturity of the weak. Like “evangelical aristocrats” they show an obvious disdain for those who have not seen how to apply the redeeming work of Jesus into all the broad categories of life.

“Stop it.” That is what Paul says. But he does not end there.

Not only must such divisive attitudes be thrown from you like rotten eggs on a summer’s day... you must go even further and welcome these weak ones! Paul’s word is “receive.” Receive them! Hold them in the same regard and confidence and esteem and affection that you do your fellow strong brothers. Look upon them as equal members of the family of God.

And do not welcome them just to instruct them! This is agenda-less welcoming. It is not “receive them in order that you might ‘quarrel over opinions.’” No! There is no place for that! It is welcome and receive and love them. Period. Never do we welcome a brother in order to fix him!

On the one hand, you eat anything – all things! On the other hand, the weak man eats only vegetables! Who cares! Welcome him! For – watch this now – “God has welcomed him.”

If you reject him, you are rejecting a person that God has welcomed.

This is like the boy at his pal’s birthday party that does not like, Johnny, one of the other guests. That boy screams and fusses when Johnny arrives. But the birthday boy, he has welcomed Johnny. It’s his party. Who are you to show the door to another man’s guest? It is not your party.

2. Weak Ones: Do Not Condemn the Strong!

We have seen this already in verse 3: “let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats...”

To pass judgment means to condemn. To stand as jury and judge over another believer and decree the verdict – guilty! It is to decide that what another man does is wrong. And in this context, it is deciding that without Biblical warrant.

Stop it. That is what Paul says. Why? Why can you not judge your brother? For the same reason he cannot despise you – because “God has welcomed him.”

So here I see Jesus, standing in the middle of that playing field, and looking at one end saying: “I have welcomed them.” Then down to the other end, “I have welcomed them.” So come, and be one with your brothers!

Lest he be misunderstood, Paul moves into what amounts to a theological explanation of this.

B. The Theological Reasoning Behind these Actions: God is One With Your Brother (:4-9)

This whole theological defense can be summed up in this one very profound philosophical question – “Who do you think you are?”

Who are you to look down your nose at the Lord’s servant?

And who are you to judge one for whom Christ died unfit?

Who do you think you are?

· Are you God’s special hidden motives inspector?

· Are you God’s official Helper for the Judgment of Other People’s Character?

You may think that is who you are, but you must have missed the email. You are just a fellow servant.

:4 - “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.”

Now this is the foundation of all that Paul is going to say in this section. God determines what is a pass. You don’t need to do that! In fact, the Lord has already determined it IS a pass!

“And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

How can this be? How can two brothers in Christ have opposite views on a matter and both be acceptable to God?

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Both brothers are acting in humble worship of their Master. He is “not-eating” or “abstaining” out of love for God. He is eating out of love for God. Do you know what matters to Almighty God? Not whether you eat or not, but the motives behind your decision! Look at it!

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

What does all this mean? Many things! But one fact this passage teaches is that your action: to eat or not eat, to observe one day as special or observe all days as equal... your decision in these matters must be rooted in your worship of Jesus Christ!

“Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Tradition, liberty, preference, social pressures – these do not factor into our decision-making. You must do what you do because you believe God is pleased with it!

If the best reason you can offer for your abstaining or your partaking is:

· That’s the way we have always done it

· Or, that is what everyone else is doing

· Or, I guess I never thought about it before...

Well, to you I say, beware! You must learn to do all that you do because you believe that by your actions God is pleased.

C. The Concluding Warning (:10-12)

:10-12 Why do you (weak brothers) pass judgment on your (strong) brother? Or you (strong brothers), why do you despise your (weak) brother?

For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess [2] to God.”

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

I am not your judge in these matters. You are not my judge in these matters. God is the Judge in these matters. So, Christian, you had best be sure that whether you eat or drink, you do all things to the glory of God!

You will settle accounts with your Creator one day soon. This thought alone ought to completely crush any thought of despising or condemning a brother. By your own measure shall you be judged.

Friend, what are another Believer’s actions to you, as long as they do not take the place of Jesus? You don’t have to like what that brother does, but you had better like that brother.

Weak brothers: Do Not Condemn!

Strong Brothers: Do Not Despise! Welcome!

Conclusion:

All of you, come to the middle of the field. Look your fellow Christian in the eye. Welcome him. Love him. Show that the grace of God is real in your life. Agree to disagree about secondary matters. Pursue peace and the love of the Holy Spirit.



[1] Adapted from Encarta Online Dictionary.