Romans 14: Wise Words for Christians in All Times

Romans 14-13

I didn’t want to write this column. It might sound political. (It is not.) And I’m not bored and needing to stick my hand into a buzz saw.     But . . .

Our community has an election coming up in May. I feel about it just like I felt about my colonoscopy. I dread it. Mostly, I dread what comes before it.

Our town is having a “local option” liquor election in May. In Texas, voters choose whether towns or counties are, regarding alcohol, dry, wet, or confusingly moist.

If you don’t live in my town, you won’t be voting on this. But I guarantee you, everyone at times gets to deal with issues just like it. Divisive issues. Issues we usually deal with so poorly that the biggest danger is not how the issue turns out; the biggest danger is how many folks turn on each other before it turns out.

For Christians, the Apostle Paul in Romans 14 gives counsel straight up that covers exactly such issues. We really should try reading it.

“Romans 14” issues are not black and white questions with easy answers: “Should I shoot my neighbor whose dog barks?” or “Should I rob a bank because I’m low on cash?” Murder and theft are not gray matters. Romans 14 issues are.

They truly are, even though folks on both extremes of such debates have a hard time seeing the gray. People feel deeply about such issues, and that’s fine. I’ve got friends, valued colleagues, and church members who feel differently about “our” election.

And that’s precisely why Paul had to deal with how we deal with such. It’s why he ordered up some good thinking to be mixed in with the deep feeling.

It’s also why Paul is often ignored and peacemakers who wander into the fuss tend to be misunderstood (often on purpose) by both sides. Derided as wishy-washy appeasers or over-starched fuddy-duddies, they can end up peppered with the buckshot fired by both armies.

In the apostle’s day, the issue was not alcohol or the strange truth that both hard-nosed teetotalers and red-nosed alcoholics can share the same problem: an unhealthy focus on alcohol. (That’s not the issue in our city either. The issue is whether or not selling it here is a good thing. The “pro” folks and the “con” folks have every right to appropriately set forth their thinking.)

The presenting issue in Romans 14 was whether or not Christians should eat meat bought in the marketplace and likely offered to an idol before it got there. The arguments Christians made pro or con were at heart the same always made, as were the temptations both sides faced.

Laser-like focus can be sharp; it can also be tunnel-vision. But obvious to anyone not already fighting is that equally committed Christian folks dealing with a Romans 14 issue can and do take differing positions. So the Apostle Paul commands, “Don’t judge each other.” Judging a brother or sister is not gray; it is sin.

The time we might spend on such issues casting doubt on each other’s motives is always better spent praying and seeking guidance to make choices we believe will honor God and be a blessing.


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Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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