Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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

This is a multi-part series. You can catch up and get some context by reading the first three parts here: Part I, Part II, Part III

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In the last study, we saw that the whole matter of how to treat each other when there are differences of opinion over secondary matters can be summed up in this way:

Weak brothers: Do Not Condemn!

Strong Brothers: Do Not Despise! Welcome!

Now we want to ask: what is the positive action that must take place in order for real unity to be achieved? That is the question that Paul answers in 14:13-23 – and as we will see, most of it has to do with the strong. So strong ones, listen up!

I. The Command: Judge Rightly

Paul begins with a command that is made up with two parts.

A. Do not condemn (:13)

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer,

Therefore, let us no longer judge one another,

Paul moves from addressing the weak alone as “condemners” to commanding both the weak and the strong to stop condemning each other. He uses the word “judgment” in that sense: “stop writing off the other” – the one with whom you find yourself at different opinions. And what is quite clear in the grammar of the text is that Paul assumes this is something that is being done and he desires that it be done no longer!

Based on the fact that each man will stand before God – and that God Himself will bring each man’s life before Him and that man “will give an account.” “Therefore,” we should no longer judge one another! Leave that to God!

So the first thing is to stop the bad behaviour, but as Paul so often does, he describes for us the good behaviour that should replace this.

Mom and Dad, here is a practical lesson for you: When you command your child to stop one behaviour, the wise parent will instruct in what is the good behaviour. So, “stop hitting your sister with that log” ought to be joined with “and love her and play the game she wants to play!”

What is the positive behaviour Paul tells us to do? (it sounds negative at first)

B. Do not cause to stumble

"but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother."

"but you rather judge this: to not place a stumbling-block or offence to the brother."

Do not judge – in the sense of condemn another. But DO JUDGE this – in the sense of determine to do this. Do what? To never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the path of a brother.

i. stumbling block

something that trips up another – causes them to fall; to fall over something

ii. hindrance – skandalon

the trap that causes another to fall – the metaphor means “a cause of offence” – the cause of someone else’s ruin

What does this mean? If you are not discriminating, by your actions you will throw logs in the path of your brother.

Once I was driving through Utah in a freak winter storm. Utah is barren and after 20 hours of driving I finally gave up the wheel to a girl traveling with us. As my eyes started to close, I woke up shouting, “There are logs in the road! Look out!”

Now, there were no logs! It was an hallucination, but they looked real! And if they had been real, we would have been in big trouble. A log across the road will throw you in the ditch. Like a cow on the tracks will derail the train.

As we progress through this paragraph, it becomes more in focus that Paul is thinking of the strong here. As they exercise their strength of faith in the face of the weak, it provokes the weak to sin. How? Possibly in many ways, but as we will see, the worst way is when the weak join in the actions of the strong that they think are wrong. They have violated their conscience and for them – it is sin.

So, judge rightly. Do not condemn and do not trip up.

Now, just like Paul offered theological, Truth–reasons for the command he gave in verse one, so he does the same thing here. This isn’t some kind of mamby-pamby let’s all just get along silliness. This is real unity in the face of real disagreement being described. So, why is it we are to quit condemning and setting traps and throwing up roadblocks for each other? Name one good reason!

I will... in the next post!