The Way to Peace and Joy
Lord, You are the three-in-one God, enjoying community within the Trinity. May I reach out in love to others.
Read ROMANS 14:13-23
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.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…” (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
These passages about the weak and the strong living together in love in the fellowship of the church take up nearly two chapters. Perhaps there was a danger that these two groups would separate. Rome was a big city and there are several house churches mentioned in ch. 16. Paul was deeply concerned about these divisions and, although he identified himself with the strong (15:1), he emphasized the need for love and humility, even when you know you’re right!
Again, there are echoes of Jesus here: “You experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry” (Luke 11:46). Living in the kingdom of God, we build the kingdom together, careful not to damage anyone’s faith, building up, encouraging and teaching—that’s what the strong in faith do.
Today we live with the historical consequences of many divisions. Some divisions have been on the basic doctrines of the Gospel. Paul spelled out, in the first half of this letter, those Gospel truths where there can be no compromise. How many of today’s divisions are disputable matters where we should be making every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification? John Stott lists modes of baptism, use of alcohol, the charismatic gifts of the Spirit, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the precise nature of hell as examples. Mutual edification means that we cannot simply ignore such differences. There are some topics that need to be aired in love where we are all willing to listen and learn. Sometimes it is tempting to show how good we are. Still, Jesus told us not to make a performance of fasting, praying and giving. Better to keep things to ourselves than to make others feel small.
Have I inherited conventions that burden me or others? I need to ask the right questions: Does it matter? Is it a sin? Does it deny the Gospel?
Father, give me the gift of discernment in all things. Help me break down the barriers that divide. Unite me with others through Your Spirit.