Nancy Ortberg tells the story of her daughter coming home from a church service with a note in her pocket. She was so deeply touched about what her daughter had written that she put it up on the cork board in her kitchen. It said, “Help me not to be OK just because everything is OK with me.”
Life in community means, “It’s not just about me. I’m part of a body.” As an interesting footnote, we could add here that the emerging, post-modern generation is very hungry for a truer and deeper sense of authentic community. That’s why it is so crucial that we understand Paul’s words in today’s text.
I. What does God say about the weaker brother (
Paul tells us that if we are to live in community, we have to accept someone else who doesn’t share our convictions. Sometimes, it may be some personality quirk that we just have to overlook. Someone may have a way of mispronouncing a word (on purpose) that he thinks is funny. You just find it irritating. Do you make a big deal about it, or do you accept him because he’s your brother?
Other matters are more serious than that. Paul uses the example of food. I have family members who are vegetarians. I was taught to be grateful for whatever food is set in front of me. I remember going out to eat with family members who were vegetarian and not ordering any “unclean” meat out of respect for their convictions. My conviction didn’t change, and I didn’t try to change their conviction; but for the sake of fellowship, we respected each other’s convictions.
That comes from a basic conviction that what we do, we do before the Lord. The weaker brother does not answer to you; ultimately he answers to God.
II. What does God say about my convictions before Him (
Paul says that the important principle to remember is that we live a life consistent with our own God-given convictions. Some people have God-given convictions about the Sabbath and eating meat. Others have strong convictions about abstaining from any and all alcohol. Paul says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” He continues, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord.”
Each of us will have to give an account one day of how well we have done at living out our own convictions; so rather than judging someone else because he or she doesn’t agree with you, focus on how well you’re doing at living out of your own convictions.
III. What does God say about judgment (
Jesus Christ was crucified so that He could be the Lord of the dead and the living. If Jesus Christ is Lord, He is the one who determines how well we are doing at living for Him instead of ourselves. God says that one day, every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess to Him.
What’s the practical outworking of this? How can we disagree over certain convictions our brothers and sisters don’t share with us and still live in community? The answers to these questions are in the next passage (which is not included in this Lectionary reading). In verse 13, Paul says, “Therefore, stop passing judgment on one another.”
Rather than judging, live in accordance with the law that gives liberty, the law of love. It’s not about you; it’s about God and what He wants to do in your brother’s life. Negatively stated: How can you make sure you don’t hinder his growth? Positively: How can you help your brother become all God intends for him to be?