Generous Space for Growth
Father, thank You for Your Word. It can encourage, demand, and correct. Use it to make me whole in You.
Read Romans 14:1-9
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
We must not elevate nonessentials, especially of custom and ceremony, to the level of essential and make them tests of orthodoxy and conditions of fellowship.
In this passage, Paul continues to work out in practice what it means to be “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5, KJV) in relation to some specific issues of contention. What Paul does not say is almost as important as what he does say. He is writing to a mixed Jewish-Gentile community, and the most obvious way of understanding his comments about regulations on food (2) and the observation of holy days (5) is that he is referring to whether Jewish food laws and the keeping of Sabbath now apply to all. We know from other passages that these were important issues (Gal. 3; 1 Cor. 8) but what is fascinating is that Paul conspicuously avoids naming it as a Jewish/Gentile issue. Since we are all one in Christ, such a distinction no longer pertains.
Instead, he talks of those “weak” in faith. He is not using this term to suggest inferiority, or that these people are not yet saved. He seems to imply that such people have not yet worked out fully the implications of all that he has been saying earlier in the letter. We are all united by our confession that “Jesus is Lord” (10:9), but we are also all disciples, learners, who are on a path of growing in our understanding. Some have become “fully convinced in their own mind” (5) about such things, after mature reflection and discussion; others continue on the journey of growth and discovery on these matters. Paul is offering a two-fold challenge: determination to strive for greater understanding, and generosity to others who are just embarking on their own journey of learning.
Paul is so committed to the importance of generosity and unity that he is able to describe these things as debatable matters, even though he himself has a clear view on them.
How good are you at offering a generous welcome to those starting on the journey of faith? What opportunities are there in your fellowship for learning and growing?
Lord Jesus, I want always to be a disciple, a life-long learner of what it means to follow You. May I always encourage others on their journey with You, also.
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