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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 14:1–12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 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. 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. 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. 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. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 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. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 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. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God. (NRSV)

This is a remarkable teaching from the Apostle Paul about showing one another respect even when our convictions differ. In the Roman church there were two streams of thought. Some thought their freedom in Christ meant old food laws no longer applied and that one day is no more special than another. Others still believed it was wrong to eat meat and the sabbath should be rigorously observed. Paul refers to the latter group of people as “weak in faith,” not because he was against vegetarians (I have been one myself) but for two other reasons. Such folks were legalists who still saw Christianity as a set of rules and regulations, and they still believed they needed to earn God’s favor through their works, rather than accepting the gift of God’s grace.

But Paul doesn’t encourage the first group, with whom he agreed, to correct and convince the others away from their scruples. Instead he says to welcome them, to honor that they seek to do what they believe is right. We are not to be annoying nags, constantly criticizing or ridiculing others for what they hold sacred. We are not to look with contempt upon others but show everyone respect. This is the way to embody love, the highest Christian principle. Besides, ridiculing stirs up irritation, defensiveness, resistance, and even withdrawal in others—not effective ways to influence others.

Paul goes on to say that all servants are accountable to their own Master alone. It is not ours to judge but to recognize that believers are all seeking to serve God. We are to love our neighbors and act in ways that will not cause anyone to stumble.

Correct me, God of grace, whenever I am tempted to let being right override showing love. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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