Posts Tagged ‘Epistle to the Romans’

h1

“…BUT I’M RIGHT” – May 28

May 29, 2013

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.”  Romans 14:1

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists.

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A discussion about the subtleties of particular theological positions can feel like a mine field.  I have some family members with whom I have agreed to an armistice regarding certain branches of theology.  They never seem to go well; just hint at predestination and the tension in a Sunday School class will escalate.  Most of us have experienced discussions that are religious in nature which have quickly turned into various degrees of quarrels.  After one of these chats, my wife no longer accepts my explanations that start with, “All I said was…”  It is why I am effectively banned from such discussions at most social gatherings.

I don’t know why I get myself in those situations.  It is the rare occasion when I have one of these discussions with a person with whom I disagree and I walk away feeling uplifted, encouraged, and joyful.  I wonder how often God is glorified in these intense theological discussions.

The list for which we Christians have drawn hard theological lines is very long:

Bible Translation             Style of Worship   Eschatology                    Predestination
Days of Celebration  Baptism    Clothing          Alcohol  Tobacco         Days of Worship

We get all worked up about them because we are so convinced in what we believe.  Yet, I wonder how many of these quarrelsome issues will really matter in the end.

The fact that we are so convinced is actually a good thing.  We should be convinced about how we live our faith.  Our faith should matter to us enough that we have at least an opinion.  We should be confident about how we walk in the Spirit.  We should be decisive in the decisions we make regarding that which we partake and abstain.  It is a good thing to have conviction.

We are told that everything that does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23b)

Therefore, we should have very strong opinions about our faith.  What we believe about all the minor issues of our faith does matter.  We should not be wishy-washy about theology.  I have be told by friends that they have no intention of becoming convinced about a certain theological position because they are going to follow Jesus and Jesus alone.  I do not see where Paul is encouraging that sort of non-committal approach in order to avoid conflict.  Faith is center to our lives.  Everything that we do that does not come from faith is sin.  That is serious.  So, we should know what we believe and why we believe it.  We should have strong opinions about how we live our lives.  That is what it means to be fully convinced in our own mind.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5

The question is how we are to handle these strong opinions?

As Paul teaches, we all are going to give an account of ourselves to God.  I will stand before our God and you will stand before our God and we will both have to give an account for all of our strong beliefs and how we lived them out.  The implication of this teaching is to lead us to conclude that there can be more than one right answer.

Just because something is wrong for me does not mean that it is wrong for you.
Just because something is right for me does not mean that it is right for you.

 I don’t like that very much.  It does not fit into my tidy, black and white, world.  I like things to be right or wrong.  My comfort is found in crisp distinctions.  I would prefer there to be one correct answer.  How can I be glorifying God in my actions and a person doing the direct opposite also be glorifying God?  That just messes with my head.

I think that the reason our discussion rise to quarrels is because we are fully convinced that there is one right answer.  Think about all of those conversations that you have had on theology that seemed to go in circles and were so wholly unsatisfying.  Maybe, they were so unsatisfying due to the fact that the equally right answers already resided in each of your hearts.  The fact that two people with opposite opinions can both be right is a concept that I have to be continually reminded of.

Therefore, we can relax when it comes to one another.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his own Master that he stands or falls.  And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  Romans 14:4

The real issue that we should be concerned about is whether someone is saved; whether someone has been welcomed by God (Romans 14:3b).  The essential issue is whether someone is justified by faith in Christ Jesus.  If they are saved, then they are responsible for their own faith before God.  The good news is that our Lord is able to make all of His children stand before Him.  Just think about what an incredible promise this is.  Every follower of Christ is empowered in Christ to stand before God.  We just need to learn to trust God to complete the work that He has started in our lives and the lives of others.

That is why we can chill-out about all these non-essential theological issues.  God has it all under control.   God is the founder and perfecter of both of our faith.  He is more than capable to uphold his own children.

Our strong convictions free us to welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

It is because of our strong opinions that we are free to really love one another and seek their well-being.  The reality that we can both be right should motivate us to lay aside those non-essential issues and seek our brother or sister’s well-being more than being right.  Being right does not matter nearly as much as someone feeling welcomed and loved.  Our goal should be for them to feel welcome and encouraged rather than judged.   In fact, the confidence that we have in the Lord, by being fully convinced of what we believe, obligates us to bear with the failings (differing opinions) of our brothers and sisters  and to to not seek to please ourselves(Romans 15:1).

Also, we are set free  from other people’s opinions.  Ultimately, my faith is between God and me.  It is not subject to community polling.  This does not mean I can kill people to the glory of God; commit adultery to the glory of God; or cheat on my taxes to the glory of God.  This does not free me to be a false teacher or to embrace heresy.  However, it frees me from the opinions of other on non-essential issues.  I have felt judged by others on how I live my life (spend money, take vacation, hours worked, etc.), but I was not convinced in my own heart that what I was doing was wrong.  This sort of judgmental attitude by our brothers and sisters in Christ can really steal our joy and rock our faith.  We are freed from their opinions because we can both be right.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit Romans 14:17

We need to be convinced of our faith in our own hearts and live the faith He as called us to for the glory of God.  We need to walk faithfully in the Spirit and bask in the peace and joy of our faith.  Our faith is not a burden.  Don’t let the opinions of other people make it a burden.  We are called to live in the joy of our King.  Let’s embrace the freedom of the hope of God to live in all joy and peace of believing with a fully convinced heart.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for for setting me free in Christ Jesus.  Forgive me for those times where I have made a fellow brother or sister feel unwelcome and judged.  Forgive me for caring more about the rightness of my doctrine rather than your righteousness, peace, and joy.  Forgive me for not loving my fellow heirs of God like you do.   Lord, help me to see your children as You do.  Help me to love as you do.  Make me a man who pursues peacemaking for mutual upbuilding.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

h1

“CYNICISM OF THE RULED” – May 22

May 22, 2013

“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?  Will what is molded say to the molder, “Why have you made me like this?  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?”  Romans 9:20

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Scandal and politics seem to go together.  I don’t know if there has ever been a US President that did not have to battle some sort of charges of wrong-doing or abuse of power during their administration.   Several political scandals are currently rocking the US Presidential Administration of President Obama.  President Obama will be making the case over that next several months that he can still be trusted despite these accusations of impropriety.  President Obama will have to make the case to his supporters that these wrong-doings were isolated instances and that they can still trust their government to protect their interests and rights.  The president has to make the case that he can be trusted with power.

We will see how successful he is in the next several months.

The US government was created with checks and balances to curb the abuse of power by the government.  Have you thought about why these checks and balances are needed?  They are needed for the very reason that there are political scandals in every presidential administration.  They are needed because a government places the governing into a position of authority over the governed.  The very nature of that authority is ripe for lording over those subjected to the laws of the land.  There is no cornucopia of trustworthy leaders in history who have handled this authority well.  That is why we need checks and balances between the various branches of government.  That is why we need a free press.  That is why we need free and open elections.  We need all these mechanisms because our leaders are mere men and women and we can be corrupted by power.

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the U...

Men and women cannot be blindly trusted with authority.  It does not matter how wise, intelligent or great they may seem to be.  I am cynical of any politician or leader who tries to persuade me to just trust them.  However, what if they were completely trustworthy?  What if they were completely good?  What if they were completely loving?  What if they were completely honest?

Absolute power in the hands of someone like that would not be corrupting. 

I think that our correct cynicism of human rulers has a tendency to corrupt our view of God.  We want some sort of checks or balances in God’s power over the ruled.  I don’t find Paul’s explanation of God loving Jacob but hating Esau, before they were born, very satisfying in my human mind.

What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. Romans 9:14-15

Many people are unsettled with this concept of  “if God does it, that means it is not illegal.”  However, this is when we need to fight against putting our human characteristics and flaws upon God.  We only need checks and balances when the one in authority is corruptible.  That does not define God:

God is good;

God is trustworthy;

God is faithful:

God is honest;

God is love.

It is by faith in the character of God that we can drop our cynicism of his rule.  If God does it then that does mean that it is good, right, legal, fair, and loving.

I know that this is a very simplistic answer to a very difficult passage.  There have been many books written on the implications of Romans 9.  I think the study of the sovereignty of God and man’s free will is good and beneficial.  However, we can over-complicate the issue in pursuit of an answer that will satisfy our sense of fairness.  Our sense of fairness is built upon the premise that the ruler is corruptible.

There are particularly difficult doctrines that require a child’s faith. 

I don’t like the thought of those “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.”  However, I accept that with the faith as of a child.  If God has done that then it is not against His character; it is not unfair; it is not wrong.  This world is not about us.  It is not about the creature.  This whole world was created to make much of the Creator.

God can do whatever He wants and that does not make him a tyrant.

He is not a tyrant because of who He is.

He is the Creator who is not corruptible by absolute power.  He does not need His power checked.

We just need to learn to trust Him in all things…as a child.

PRAYER: Lord, there are a lot of things that I do not fully understand.  Help me to be faithful to who you are as I wrestle with the deep truths about You.  Father, keep me firmly fixed on the foundation of your Son as I seek to know you more.  Lord, keep me from arrogance in the doctrines that I believe to be true.  Give me the faith of a Child.  Preserve that child-like faith throughout all aspects of my life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

%d bloggers like this: