So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
Romans 14:22 NIV
The other day our preacher asked our congregation if there were any scriptures we wish God had not put in the Bible. At the time I couldn’t think of anything because I’m a good Christian and believe that all scripture is God breathed and beneficial for etc. etc. etc. And then tonight one hit me. It’s the verse above. Guess I’m not as good a Christian as I thought.
It comes at the end of a section of Paul talking about being considerate of your family in the things that you do. He talks about food, holy days, and opinions, and he comes to rest here. I don’t like it. That’s not true I actually like the concept a lot. I love the idea that what I believe is really no ones business but God’s and mine. And I love the idea that if I know my brother believes differently than I do that I have the opportunity to love my brother by humbling myself for the sake of his relationship with Christ. It’s amazing to me that the God, who created a system so intricate down to the very cells of the tips of the fingers writing this post, left me gray areas to figure out how I relate to Him. He left parts of our relationship up to me.
On the surface this idea is actually kind of stupid. I mean broken down to its basest form, this is a being, of such power that his breath creates stars, gave a dirt clod the power to choose how to relate to him. Stupid right? But without it I can’t give Him my love. If He had dictated every single thing to us then I would have no choice in the matter. I would have no place for my individuality to express its love to my a Father. I would only be able to give him obedience. And while he wants obedience, he wants obedience done in love not compulsion. I think it’s awesome that God allowed me to customize the way I express my love for him.
So why do I have a problem with this verse? Because we SUCK at it. Mankind absolutely stinks at activating this.
Today I was participating with the youth group I lead in watching a live feed of Winterfest from Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (We couldn’t be there in person this year due to weather.) So I’m watching Jeff and Taylor Walling speak and I’m completely fangirling out. Not because it was Jeff Walling, met him once and shook his hand turns out he’s just a human like me. I was fangirling because they were talking about the Restoration Movement, which spawned the creation of my tribe. I love talking and hearing about this movement. So there I am trying not to squeal because these teens I minister to, and like 14,00 others, are about to hear about one of my favorite topics. And then they started putting up three of the four major tenants of the restoration movement. On the outside I maybe look like I am intently listening, but on the inside I’m bouncing around celebrating because maybe someone I’m sitting the room is going to see what the ideas were that started my tribe and MAYBE go, “Hey why can’t we just do that!” And they turn around the banner that has the motto, or whatever I am supposed to call it that says this, “In faith,unity. In opinions, liberty. In all things, love.”
Now in my personal study into the restoration, my understanding is the phrase was actually, “In essentials, unity…,” but Walling is talking to students who might not understand what the word essentials means so, Jeff if you are reading this (yeah right) I forgive you. And before you say it’s just words, remember what God used to create everything.
Anyway, there is that pesky Romans 14 idea again. In opinions, liberty. I mean that’s really what verse 22 is saying isn’t it? Whatever you believe about this is between you and God. Simple reasoning leads me to believe that if what I believe about these things is between God and I, then what you, or anyone else, believes about these things must be between you and God too. I don’t know if the problem lies in human nature or if it’s due to our culture but we don’t like people to have differing opinions. About anything. We’ve got all kinds of media out there talking about one point of view and saying that any other point of view is held solely by idiots. It is my observation that it isn’t just American culture that is this way, but hey…that’s just my opinion.
Right now we live in a world where little girls get involved in horrible emotional abuse on YouTube videos of bands that won’t be here in 2 years. We have people driving down the road with bumper stickers profanely displaying the support or despise of an idea. There has long been a battle over which is better Chevy or Ford. We fight over sports teams and clothing brands and musicians and politics and tv shows and comic books brands. (Skidmore if you are reading this I’m working really hard to get past your love for DC’s knock off version of Marvel’s clearly superior Namor. I’m only name dropping because I’m cool enough for him to follow me on twitter #lifegoalachieved #cofcfamous #Winterfestheadliner #selfie). We have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and all kinds of things where we can post links and shout to the world, “THIS IS THE RIGHT OPINION TO HAVE AND OH WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT I HAVE IT AND IF YOU DON’T AGREE ITS ONLY BECAUSE YOU STUPID AND WRONG! AND YOUR MOM IS UGLY!” It’s like we look for lines in the sand to draw to stand on the “right side” of.
One of the most disheartening things that has happened to me was opening up the front cover of a book called The Directory of the Churches of Christ. The intent behind this book was to help you find a place to worship when you were away from home. It’s probably in your church library or in the church secretary’s office. Go look. Inside this front cover you have about 3 pages of abbreviation explanations. It has things like one cup, instrumental, non cooperative, no bible school, and the list goes on and on. The whole idea about the restoration movement was unity. And here in a tribe that all too often claims to be THE church of Christ, we find divisions. I hate that.
I don’t hate Romans 14:22, I love it with all my heart. It is my favorite part of the Bible because it tells me the relationship I have with God is unique to me. I wish it wasn’t in there because then I wouldn’t have the expectation of His people, including myself, to follow it. As it is we are, as they say, without excuse. So I guess since it’s in there I’m going to have to respect your opinion, even if I don’t agree with it or like it. I don’t have to make it my own or believe it but I have to respect you and your relationship with God enough to make accommodations for it when we are together. And to make it worse, I have to do this whether you reciprocate or not. I have to because my belief about this verse is that is one of the ways I can show God I love Him. And I do love Him. But hey, that’s just my opinion.
(Ok Skidmore, I guess it’s ok if you love Aquaman)