Do Not Judge!
Mighty God, You are the light of the World. One word from You scatters the darkness. Speak Your word now.
Read Romans 14:1-12
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” (Reinhold Niebuhr). That sounds like advice Paul would endorse.
Responding to an invitation to come to church on Sunday, one mother at the church’s nursery group said “I can’t come to church. I’m not married.” Research shows that, invited to say what they think about the church, outsiders often mention the judgmental nature of Christians. Many older Christians remember churches where dress, hats, gambling, alcohol and Sabbath-keeping were the defining codes. It is easier to define ourselves by obvious non-essentials. It is much harder to live the law of love in humility and to “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions” (1, NRSV). The elderly man who comes to faith, but is a smoker; the new Christian who remembers half-learned theologies from school days; that mother in the nursery group—do we start by setting them straight, or nurture their new faith in love and let the Holy Spirit direct our response to them and their transformation?
In Rome it was likely that the Jewish believers, returning to Rome after being expelled, were weak, anxious to keep their rules about not eating unclean meat, etc. So what are disputable matters at any one time? What are the areas where a strong judgmental attitude may well crush a new, faltering faith? What practices relate more to what others may think of us than to what pleases the Lord? Again Paul recalls Jesus’ own words, “Do not judge, or you, too, will be judged…Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matt.7:1,3). Referring to Isaiah (Isa. 45:23), he reminds them that we will all give an account of ourselves to God (12).
In what ways can you begin to change attitudes that see the church as humorless, living by rules, hypocritical? Are there ways in which you have (unintentionally) been judgmental?
Lord, it’s easy to judge people based on externals. Enable me, in Christ’s name, to be welcoming to all, even if I can’t always affirm their lifestyles.
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