Differences that divide.
“Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions..“ – Vs 1 NET
“How can he be a believer? Just look at that tatoo!”
“How in the world can anyone worship to that kind of music!”
“I saw him drinking beer in a restaurant. How can he call himself a Christian?”
“I can’t believe all these guys who wear suits to church – like it makes them more spiritual or something.”
“He won’t come over and watch the Cowboys play on Sunday because he says, ‘It’s the Lord’s day.’ What a religious fanatic!”
Differences of opinion and issues over personal preference. They’re inevitable – even in the church. And they can be highly destructive. Paul knew that to be true, which is why he addresses the problem in chapter 14 of his letter to the Roman believers. Throughout his other letters, Paul dealt with the problem of sin in the church. But here he deals with something just as potentially dangerous to the church’s health and unity: the attitudes and behaviors that can destroy fellowship and fruitfulness in a local body of believers.. In a church you will always have mature believers and immature believers. You will have those who have been following Christ since they were children and who were raised in the church. Alongside them you will have those who are new to church life and have no experience with the traditions and doctrinal issues associated with the church. They bring with them their past experiences, habits, hang-ups, and yes, preferences. This blend of personalities, opinions, and personal preferences can be a potentially toxic blend if we’re not careful. And Paul knew this.
So he addressed those in the church who were more mature to “receive the one who is weak in the faith.” Rather than judge him for the things he does that you disapprove of, receive him. That word in the Greek means “to take to one’s self, to take or receive into one’s home, with the collateral idea of kindness.” And this is not a suggestion, it’s a command. Paul is telling the more mature believers to love and accept the newer believer. Stop judging and start loving. How easy it is to sit back and pass judgment on someone who doesn’t dress like me, act like me, or worship like me. Without even knowing them, I can pass judgment on them and categorize them as less-than-serious about their faith. But they may be simply immature. Or they may just have different personal preferences than I do. They may be mature in their faith, but perfectly fine with having a beer with their pizza. They may love the Lord just as much as I do and have no problem with sporting a tattoo. Rather than judge them based on the externals, Paul says I am to receive them. I may be shocked to find that the one I thought was weak in the faith is actually quite strong. But doesn’t share my personal tastes in clothes, music, or worship styles.
This whole chapter is about unity and love. I am to die to my rights and personal preferences in order to show love to another brother or sister in Christ. I am to be concerned about their walk with Christ. I should care about how my actions might influence them. Paul is talking about those grey areas of life that are not explicitly condemned as sin in the Scriptures. If I happen to be the one who sees nothing wrong with having a glass of wine with my meal, I am free to do so, as long as my conscience doesn’t condemn me. But if I take advantage of that right while having another brother in my home who just might struggle with the issue of alcohol in his life, and I cause him to stumble, then I have sinned. I have let my rights become a stumbling block to another believer. This isn’t about letting someone else’s personal tastes dictate how I live my life. It is about being sensitive to the spiritual well-being of those around me. Paul says, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Vs 17 N:T). We worry way too much about issues regarding tastes, style, preference, and opinions. Paul says we should put all that on the back burner and worry more about living lives of goodness, peace, and joy. In other words, living lives of righteousness.
Father, You have called us to live in love. You have called us to put others first. You have called us to die to self. That is hard to do. Especially when others don’t share my opinions and personal tastes. I find it easy to find fault with others because they differ from me. But their differences have little to do with anything other than my own personal preferences. Help me to put those aside and receive them as one of Your own. To love them and care for them. Forgive me for passing judgment so often on those whom I know nothing about. May we be a fellowship where love wins out over differences of opinion. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men