The last two Sundays at our church have brought a number of issues to the forefront of how we deal with one another as believers. In digging in to Romans 14, we took time to see the attitude stronger Christians are to have with weaker ones (vv. 1-12), followed the following week by the actions we take (13-23).
By weaker Christians, I mean those who are (1) new to the faith, and (2) who still have associations based on their former life and worldview (1 Corinthians 8:7), and (3) those who have refused to grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus and His Word, but rather dig into their own word to impose on others. Just because someone has been a Christian for a long time does not mean they are mature. And just because someone has been a Christian for a short amount of time doesn’t mean they are immature.
What matters is this: is our Christian walk informed by the Word of God, activated by the grace of God, to help the people of God and all peoples take that next step? Do we spend more time showing others how spiritual we are, trying all the while to fix them–or are willing to put ourselves aside to help the weaker Christians grow?
Let’s distill two 40-minute sermons into just a few points:
- Both camps (stronger and weaker believers) need to discern God’s law from their own ‘law’ (i.e., opinions). Whenever we begin legislating non-moral issues (what we eat, what days mean something, styles of music, devotions in the morning or evening) as moral issues, we begin adding more law than what God has ordained. Your personal preferences and preferred opinions should not be elevated to tests of faith.
- When we add more law, we begin being their judge and jury. There’s an old expression, “There is only one God–and you’re not him.” God is our only true Lawgiver. By us adding more onto other weaker brothers, we do more to hinder than to help. Rather than “stumbling blocks” (v. 13), we need to add stepping stones to helping them understand Christ and His Word more.
- Remember, stronger/mature believer, that all who have surrendered to Jesus belong to Jesus. Just because you believe journaling is the best way for devotions doesn’t mean that works for others. Just because you pray and do devotions in the morning doesn’t mean that should be imposed on others. Just because piano and organ work for you in worship doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for everyone. What matters is that we are chasing after the One who first chased after us: Jesus Christ by His Holy Spirit.
- The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of our faith—for without it, there would be nothing and “our faith would be in vain.” We live to him, we die to him because He lived for us and died for us. For all believers—abstainers and eaters. For those who like new songs and the old. For the strong and the weak. Yes, you who are weak, Christ even died for you, for you who struggle to figure out what your Christian life looks like. We who may be stronger in the faith will welcome you, and must welcome you, not because you line up with our opinions, but because you are a fellow child of God.
Lift up Christ’s law, not yours.
Tomorrow: How Are Weaker Christians Supposed to Help the Stronger?