[Sept 14]—Disputable Matters, Part Two

            Sorry for the slight overlap of verses from yesterday. I’ve put some effort into figuring out how to divide up the verses in the passage that deals with this. The problem is that it’s pretty difficult to sort through Paul’s thoughts on this topically, and I fully realize that most people can’t or won’t read through a chapter and a half for a devotional. So I’m going to suggest you read the above verses, and if I reference something that’s outside of today’s reading, I’ll prepare a link for that when I cite it.
            Today we’re going to examine what Paul has to say to the “strong” believer (who’s more mature). Hopefully as you’ve known the Lord longer chronologically, that’ll roughly correspond to more intimate knowledge about God and knowledge of him (on a personal level). As you know him better, you come to a better understanding of what’s more important to him, and what’s less important. Worshipping the Lord as who he really is, not some made-up version of him—that’s important. The eternal fate of souls—that’s important. Whether or not I eat certain foods or observe certain holidays—much less important.
            In Christ, everything is either sinful or it’s not. And as we saw yesterday, Paul made it clear that—as far as ultimate truth goes—the Christians who ate whatever was sold in the market and who didn’t feel obligated to observe special days were in the right. Maturity in Christ gave them a better understanding of 1) what’s sinful and 2) what’s not, based on God’s revealed word.
            But to anyone who’s more mature in Christ than the siblings around you, Paul has some words to say. This is so important, and especially to Christians in modern America, since this goes sooooooo much against our inclinations: Your freedom in Christ is not the most important consideration here. Yes, there’s no intrinsic moral issue involved in stuff like this. But that’s not the point. As Paul put it in vss. 7-8: “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Or as he put it in another context: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”
            Because of this, we need to “make up [our] mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Act in love towards your sibling. “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” What does this mean?
            Well, as best as I can tell, it means that you don’t flaunt your freedom in front of someone who can get confused. To take an example from this context, let’s say that you’re the more mature brother, and someone else has just come to faith in Christ, and they came out of an idolatrous background. To them, there’s an inextricable association between buying the meat and literally bowing down before a statue, and to them the two are morally equivalent. So if they see you, a mature believer—a model for them to follow—buying meat in the marketplace, they might make the logical leap that idolatry really isn’t all that bad, or even that bowing before an idol is compatible with being a follower of  Jesus.
            And you, as the more mature believer, have caused harm, perhaps irreparable, to a babe in Christ. And you haven’t acted in love towards him. Quite the opposite. And may I submit here that in this case, if I were you, I’d be very afraid that Jesus’ warnings would apply. Our Lord apparently takes this sort of thing very seriously, so it’d be a good idea for me to do so too.
            And as a final note, I’d point you to his admonition near the beginning of the chapter: “The one who eats everything [the more mature] must not treat with contempt the one who does not.” If you have a deeper understanding and better discernment, then the last thing this should produce is arrogance or pride or looking down on someone who disagrees with you. In fact, I’d submit that this type of attitude shows ipso facto that you’re not as mature as you might think. I know from my personal experience—backed up by the experience of everyone I’ve ever heard of—that the closer I get to Christ, the humbler I get, and the easier it is for me to see how far I have yet to go.
            “Let us stop passing judgment on one another.” “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” In other words, instead of worrying so much (with a judgmental attitude) about someone else, how’s about I focus on the one person I’m going to ultimately give an account for someday: ME.

Father God, I confess that it’s awfully easy for me to fall into the trap of looking down on someone who doesn’t know the Bible as well I do, who’s not as far along in their walk with you as I am. Wow. How arrogant can I get? Please forgive and change.

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