DISTINCTIVES THAT DIVIDE
Today Father, surround me, search me, and immerse me in your will. I wait before you now.
Read Romans 14:19–23
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.[a]
- Romans 14:23 Some manuscripts place 16:25-27 here; others after 15:33.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectReflect on the distinctives that divide in your church and among your friends. How central are they? And why do they provoke such passion?
In church leadership, I’ve sometimes been amazed at what we find to fight about—the taste of the communion wine, spirited disagreement about the way the bread should be served and the ‘right’ way to say the Lord’s Prayer have all been personal low points. I once made a unilateral decision about the color of a carpet, as I couldn’t face months of arguing about whether it should be red or blue. Even when there’s generous agreement about the gospel’s heart, there can still be intense, dogmatic debate about controversial questions that aren’t so clear.
Rather than pursuing distinctives that divide, Paul calls both the strong and the weak to pursue that which promotes peace (v 19). The strong must limit their freedom, so as not to grieve their struggling brothers and sisters. It might be unnecessary for the strong not to eat meat to be holy, but it is necessary in terms of the well-being of Christ’s body, the church. They’re challenged not to push their freedom to the point that they alienate their brothers and sisters: that’s to condemn themselves through dogmatism (v 22b). Nor must the weak just go with the flow out of a desire to avoid embarrassment: doing something they believe to be wrong, just to fit in, doesn’t honor God either.
Are there any ways in which you’re in danger of breaking fellowship over a distinctive that divides? How might you instead pursue peace?
Merciful One, I need your wisdom on a daily basis. Help me to discern what needs to be challenged and what is making a mountain out of a molehill.
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