Love Limits Liberty
(Image) YouTube - Green Police
In this ad, the problem with the green police is that they are pursuing a good thing—a healthy environment—in an extreme way. They are well meaning, but overzealous.
We often find a similar problem in the church today. While some are motivated by a spirit of a Pharisee, others are pursuing a very good thing—purity and holiness— but they are doing it to an extreme. They police the actions of others in behaviors that the Bibles says nothing specifically about. While the Bible does call the leaders of the church to exercise church discipline with regard to certain actions that are clearly named in Scripture, these people want to raise the bar and also enforce their extra-biblical standards on others. Meanwhile, there are others who recognize and know the law of grace given to us by Christ and judge those who are unwilling to enjoy the things that they themselves enjoy, the food they eat, the drinks they drink.
(Need) Our liberty in Christ should bring us together, not tear us apart.
(Subject) How do we maintain our unity in Christ despite our difference?
(Text) Romans 14
Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions.One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him. Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day holier than other days, and another regards them all alike. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day does it for the Lord. The one who eats, eats for the Lord because he gives thanks to God, and the one who abstains from eating abstains for the Lord, and he gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for himself and none dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For this reason Christ died and returned to life, so that he may be the Lord of both the dead and the living. But you who eat vegetables only—why do you judge your brother or sister? And you who eat everything—why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God.”Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister.I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean in itself; still, it is unclean to the one who considers it unclean. For if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy by your food someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For the one who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by people. So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. For although all things are clean, it is wrong to cause anyone to stumble by what you eat. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble.The faith you have, keep to yourself before God. Blessed is the one who does not judge himself by what he approves. But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not do so from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin.
(Preview) In this chapter we will hear Paul exhorting us to love one another without judgment, and to have our love limit our liberty, all of this for the sake of unity in Christ. READ the WHOLE CHAPTER.
Love without Judgment
Love without Judgment
For the sake of unity, love without judgment
Do not despise one another over opinions (1-4)
Paul’s first example deals with whether or not to eat meat… people were despising and judging one another on what they eat
Example of today would be alcohol consumption
We should not despise the brother/sister who drinks
We should not despise the brother/sister who does NOT drink
We should love them, not judge them, but rather embrace them
Paul further illustrates this principal with special days, with holidays (5)
Easter/Christmas… even the “lesser” ones - Good Friday/Maundy Thursday
How we esteem or do not esteem certain days is not cause for judgment or division within the body… as long as we staying true to our conscience which has been and is being formed by the Word of God to know His will…
Romans 14 is connected with Paul’s statement in Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
We have this liberty… b/c whatever we do we do it for the Lord (6-12)
This echoes Paul in 1 Cor 6:12
“All things are lawful for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me”—but I will not be controlled by anything.
And again in 1 Cor 10:31
So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
John Chrysostom, 4th century Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places, wrote - “Do you eat? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Do you sleep? Give thanks to God both before and afterwards. Do you launch into the marketplace? Do the same—nothing worldly, nothing of this life. Do all in the Name of the Lord, and all will be prospered to you. On wherever the Name is placed, there all things are auspicious [favorable]. If it casts out devils, if it drives away diseases, much more does it render business easy.”
Whether you wear a mask or whether you don’t… neither action is sinful.
The people eating vegetables thought those eating the meat were committing sin. Those who were eating meat thought those were not eating meat were being sinful in being legalistic.
Our freedom, our liberty in Christ allows for both…
Neither group should despise the other however, rather we recognize them to be our brother and sister in Christ and as such they will answer to God.
Therefore, we ought to be concerned about ourselves in such matters and we ought to do what we can to support them in their own walks with Christ.
For whether we live or whether we die, we do so as the Lord’s. (Verses 7-8).... Meaning we belong to Him...
We are not free people.
Not in the sense that America understands it.
We are slaves to Christ.
We do not get to dictate what we want to do with our lives...
As a believer, as one who has been born again, as one who has denied him/herself and has been crucified with Christ so that it is not Christ who lives within us...
We live according to God’s will… not ours....
Likewise, we do not get to dictate to others how to live their lives in matters where the Word of God gives freedom.
Yes, we are called to rebuke, correct, and exhort one another… as Scripture commands. But we are not to violate the conscience of one another in matters where freedom has been given within the will of God.
Again, the words of John Chrysostom are appropriate here: “Be careful when you see the Master sitting on his judgment seat, and do not make schisms or divisions in the church by breaking away from grace and running back to the law. For the law belongs to Christ as well.”
We might think the veggie eaters are being legalistic and are too tied down to the Law… but to try to convince and pressure the veggie eaters into eating meat is just as legalistic… to try and force a person into any form of behavior is not grace, but law.
In doing so, we put the law upon ourselves...
Thomas a Kempis, the 15th century monk remarks - “It is enough for each to bear his own burden; why then do we busy ourselves with the conduct of others? Why charge ourselves with a burden heavier than we can bear?”
Why do we concern ourselves or expend energy on disputable matters?
It is one thing to engage in conversation and learn from another… and even to exhort one another to right behavior in accordance to God’s will.
But it is a whole other thing to judge them… and to despise them in these matters.
We all will stand before Christ for judgment.
Do as you are convicted by the Spirit… as you submit yourself to the Spirit and God’s Word which will guide and transform your conscience to His. In doing so, He will guide your steps and He will give you peace about your decisions in these matters. His will, His desires, will become your will, your desires.
Now, what His will?
Make disciples… spreading the Gospel, baptizing in His Name, teaching others to obey His commands, etc....
So, let us not judge others against their own conscience on matters where liberty is provided within God’s will.
Now, certain matters we must be discerning on and we must judge on. Such matters as those we discussed in the Epistles of John, those that are distinctive to our faith like:
Jesus being fully God and fully Human… the Son of God in the flesh. Whether a person beliefs that or not is a matter of division… this is part of the purpose of doctrine… to divide those who know the truth, and those who do not, while keeping unity within the body over what is true.
But in other matters that do not pertain to the core beliefs of who God is and what He has explicitly revealed in Scripture… we must exercise grace and love in that liberty given to us...
Clear the Path
Clear the Path
So that we do not let our liberty to cause others to stumble (13-21)
In Christ all food and all drinks are clean
Unless one believes in the conscience that it is unclean
Therefore, we refrain from consuming what we know to be clean around those who view it be unclean out of love for them. Our love limits our liberty.
The Kingdom is about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, not food and drink. Nor about whether or not we trust the CDC guidelines or not.
All we do, we do in faith (22-23)
If you doubt if it is right and just and holy to do, don’t do it.
Seek wisdom, seek counsel, seek His Word, ask for faith.
Perhaps, God wants you to abstain and another not to abstain.
These matters are not to tear us apart, but to be an avenue for us to express our love.
How we love one another is part of our testimony to the world. Let our differences, our diversity, make our light brighter in the darkness.
And we do this because we are obligated… this matter of behavior and love to each other, is not a debatable matter, like the matters of which Paul is referencing.
But we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves.Let each of us please his neighbor for his good to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself, but just as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope. Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory.
We are obligated to walk with one another in a way that builds them up… which means we forgo our rights.
I know, as an American, as a vet, that’s a hard thing. But look to Christ.
Christ did not seek to please Himself… He gave up His right, for sinners, for those who despised Him… for you and me.
When we struggle to serve one another in this manner look, look, look to the Cross. Look to the Son of God… look at how He humbled Himself…
What’s the big deal about wearing a mask for the sake of others?
At the same time, what’s the big deal about overlooking someone who doesn’t wear a mask? There could be a number of reasons they do not… if it makes me uncomfortable… I forgo my right, and I stay away.
Now, this doesn’t mean, again, we can’t engage… we can’t dialogue.... but we must not despise one another over it.
Jesus knew how we ought to have acted… yet, He forfeited His rights, for our sake… for the glory of God.
Our rights are not the gospel. Christ crucified for our sin is…
Therefore, let us expend our energy of angst and anxiety on such matters in studying the Scriptures and in prayers, so that we may have endurance and encouragement by them, that we may live in unity and harmony as one body in Christ, so that we may lift our voices, whether masked or unmasked to glorify God.
In doing so, we welcome each other into this building, as Christ has welcomed each and every one of us.
I’m not perfect at living this way by any means… I am still learning, still growing… and neither are you, this is why we gather… to spur one another in love and good deeds… to partake of communion so that we may be reminded of Christ crucified… and what we ought to look forward to… His return… reminding us to keep our eyes on the eternal and to put aside anything that may hinder us in that effort.