One of the greatest blessings of group Bible study is gaining insight from one another. And I was surely blessed last Wednesday.
We were studying in the 14th chapter of Romans, which begins: “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” At first the general feeling was that Paul was talking about someone who is new to Christianity, and whose faith is therefore immature. One who perhaps might not understand there is no longer a need to observe some of the restrictions found in the Old Testament.
Eventually we broadened it a bit, and focused on the fact it had to do with opinions, and that perhaps the point had less to do with the immaturity of one’s faith, and more on the matter of personal convictions. Those convictions might come from a lack of understanding of what the Bible has to say, or they may simply come from a feeling that something might not be pleasing to God. Either way we are to accept the brother or sister without passing judgement on their opinion, or looking on them with contempt for refusing to eat something or observing a day differently than we do. And vice versa. Bottom line is that we’re not to sit in judgment over how someone chooses to honor the Lord.
That seemed to answer most of the questions that arose from the first 12 verses, but I still had a question about verses 7-9. Sure, it is true that if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord, but why did Paul insert that in the midst of a passage about accepting a brother whose opinions differ from our own? I had tentatively decided that perhaps he was simply indicating that these weren’t matters of life and death, and we shouldn’t make such a big deal about them. But before I could share my thoughts, Rich asked Caroline to share something she had gone through with a friend.
Caroline proceeded to tell about the death of good friend who refused blood transfusions because of her Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. Caroline had done her best to convince her friend that a transfusion was not a violation of God’s will, but she couldn’t change her mind, and she died.
Wow! Now I understood that Paul may very well have been saying that even if someone held to an opinion that led to his or her death, if it was done to honor the Lord, it’s not our place to stand in judgement of their conviction.
If that’s the case, it should be obvious that differing opinions on eating, drinking, and the way we might choose to celebrate a day should never divide us.
God Bless, Rick