House Rules: Humility

Romans: House Rules  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  22:25
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Do Not Judge Another

14 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Love, Grace
Today we wrap up our short series on House Rules for the faithful and end our months long study of Paul’s letter to the Roman church. We have meandered through this study over the summer, making our journey home into the heart of Christ, home into what it means to be our full selves, received in Christ, and home into the place where we can stand upon the firm foundation of grace which leads to justice and restoration.
Next week, we will move on to study the Parables and Prophets of the Bible, both of which offer a strong word of truth to a world that has become untethered. But before we do that, we end with a final “House Rule” today — Humility. Bound together, we act as a people living under the rules of Love, Grace, and Humility. When we learn to embody these rules together, we model the way of Christ and grow stronger in our witness, a witness that speaks a different word to a hurting world.
You won’t find the word humility in our text today. Rather, our reading from Romans focuses on judgement. As I’m sure you are aware, whenever you get into close community with other people, it is easy to start judging certain behaviors in others. Or even among strangers, we are quick to judge, calling something better or worse, acting as if we know the definitive way to live. We are prone to descend into ridicule and contempt of the other. We are apt to hold judgements in our minds, even on a subconscious level, because, in the positive, these categories help us understand the world and shape how we interact. The judgements we make tell us how to react, inform who to trust, and serve to protect.
But in the community of Jesus, rather, we are invited to yield this judgement for another way. The way I see it, underneath the caution against judgement is another, sweeter way — the way of humility.
Mind you, the person who is quick to call themselves humble is one to be leery of. “You know, one of my strengths is that I’m super humble. I’m definitely not judgmental, like so and so.” Hah…really?
Rather, the one who embodies humility might be the one who questions whether they could be humble at all. They are the ones who have an accurate self assessment of the struggle to be humble, to not judge, to hold hope for the other who is different than them. Just like the narcissist would never think of themselves as a narcissist, perhaps the humble ones are the ones who fear they never will be humble.
Food, Days, Weakness
Ok, so our text looks at judgement around some particular issues within the church. First, there is the conversation around what to eat. There appears to be some quarreling going on and judgement on differing practices. This is nothing new to the church community and is something we have continued to struggle with even now. And it makes sense — for these Roman Christians, many of whom were a part of the Jewish diaspora, it was a part of their cultural heritage to be particular about practices regarding food.
In this new configuration of the Christian way, though, there is a wide berth given. Vs. 3 speaks of the grace of God so beautifully:

3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.

Rather than passing judgement on the other, the church community is instructed to trust that God has welcomed each of them and they are accountable to God.
A second issue is around which day is better than another. Now, of course, I have a preference for Saturdays. I also like Mondays and Thursdays. And Sundays are great too because we get to gather together in worship. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, not my favorite. And Fridays, I can go either way — depends on how much yard work I need to get done!
All kidding aside, the judgement about what day is appropriate is likely about when to practice the Sabbath. As we remember from our series on Rest last month, it is less important about when you practice Sabbath than it is that you actually do practice it. And yet we find this community prone to judgement once more because of the desire to get it right — some people are practicing the day rightly, honoring the Lord rightly, and others are not.
Here we get into issues of what is orthodox, what is right-practice. And certainly, there are some clear teachings on right-practices regarding daily practice or food intake…but that’s not the point. The point is to encourage each other to practice, not judge about how and when that practice is being done.
We are a people on the way. And like the Roman church, there are some of us who may be able to take this more fluid approach, releasing judgement. And there are others of us who it is more comfortable to have strict rules and ways of being. It is not weak to need definition to order our lives. And it is not strong to look down on another for how they practice.
This is why we need a rule of humility. Romans 12 gives us this framework for what it means to live lives anew in Christ:
The New Revised Standard Version The New Life in Christ

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

All Before God, Lord of All
At the heart of this teaching is the truth that God is the lord of our lives, and God alone. We are accountable to God and God’s judgement, absolutely. And it is our the abundance of God’s goodness that we are received into this community with one another and it is God’s grace alone which holds us together. So let’s let God be God and let’s stop judging each other. Ok? Agreed?
A Cautionary Tale — Lacking Judgement
But wait…what about wickedness? What about empty, evil ways?
Is the teaching here to ultimately “live and let live” or “you do you” or “to each their own!?” NO!
If you remember last week’s text, we were instructed in the way of grace that sets aside the works of darkness. When we enter into the family of God, we are to put on the armor of light and walk forward. That is the context of these teachings on judgement — a people who have already agreed to Love and Grace are then instructed not to Judge — but rather to practice humility.
Should we speak up about evil: absolutely. As God’s people, we are charged with acting on behalf of the oppressed, to stand for justice, to resist wickedness. And we must be cautious not to let go of this responsibility out of a desire to not judge.
Rather, acting for justice is bolstered by humility. Resisting evil and untruth and the wickedness we see in the world — this takes humble acts of lovingkindness. I say humble, because to be willing to speak up and resist evil takes a heart that has been humbled by the reality that we all falter and fail, and yet also a heart that will not settle for that brokenness. Humbled hearts, in community, resist the hubris of evil, the haughtiness of being a know-it-all, the power-grabbing of taking position and authority over another.
The Beauty of God’s Diverse Community
At the beautiful center of this teaching and at the heart of our house rules of Love, Grace, and Humility, is the celebration of the diversity of God’s people. When we practice these rules, we come to an awareness of the mosaic of representations of the image of God that each of us bear. We find unity, but not unity in uniformity — instead, unity in diversity.
So, how does this come home to us as the community of Jesus at St. James Presbyterian Church?
Today friends, I want to encourage you to live into these house rules.
First, Love one another. Expect the good in each other and honor it, celebrate it, encourage it. Love one another despite our faults, despite our differences. Love and seek to make each other better, lifting each other up.
Second, offer active, radical, deep Grace. None of us are going to be perfect. We are going to bother each other. Extend grace…because we are all doing our best to get by. We need to extend grace not because that will lead to perfection amongst us, but because by grace, we will weather through life’s storms together. It is so easy to offer a harsh word or judgement in response to someone not doing it the right way or opposing us — I implore you, instead, offer grace. Receive the other as a friend and lets all help each other heal.
And third, let us be humble. While grace is offered to the other, humility is something we cultivate in ourselves as we are accountable to God alone. I don’t have it all figured out. You don’t either. Humbly, I will strive to see the way God is forming you and forming me, teaching you and teaching me. I will expect that we are all on the way, deeper into the home of Christ’s love.
It is not an easy time in our world. To say that it feels as though things were burning, both very literally and structurally, is truth. There will be calls to action, cries of judgement and finger pointing.
Friends, as the church — can we model another way? A way of Love, Grace, and Humility, at the core of who we are? As the world changes, as we reconfigure our lives, what better moment for us to take stock and claim these House Rules for ourselves and our church. There is a new day coming, a day of restoration. And we, the church, will live in anticipation of that day by practicing these rules together.
May it be so.
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