Romans – “Therefore”
Some members of our family were in continuous disagreement about almost everything…but they loved and accepted each other. I remember listening in (you couldn’t help it, we were a loud family) as a child at our after church gatherings and wondering if they even liked each other at times. I vowed not to be so boisterous in disagreeing because of these family debates over religion, politics, foods to eat, not to eat or drink, etc. Even today, I shy away from disagreeable people and fall silent and slip away to avoid the chatter. This cause for looking back and wondering why I am like I am is prompted by our next passage in Paul’s advice to the Romans.
The more I read it the more it enriches my soul, comforts and convicts me and helps me to have a strong desire to be better at growing strong relationships with others…no matter how they think or why they do the things they do. “Remember, (writes Paul), they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”
The best way to cultivate the soil of a relationship is to ACCEPT (every human is created with this need to belong and be accepted), love, be kind and gentle. “God has invited EVERYONE to His table”.
Read and pull out the “standards” of growing relationships with others God has placed in our lives. You will be blessed if you do. It is long but full of golden nuggets of truth. Highlight them as I did. Print them out and post them if necessary. We need this today!
Romans 14, The Message
Cultivating Good Relationships
14 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
5 Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
“every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God.”
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.
19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.
–Welcome all with open arms!
–Welcome believers you don’t agree with or see things they way you do.
–We all have our own history that influences today’s actions.
–Treat all gently.
–Don’t roll our eyes over what others choose to eat.
–Bad manners at the table? Let God take care of his children.
–God doesn’t need our help. Let me repeat. God doesn’t need our help.
–Everything must be done for God, for His sake, not our own.
–Do all, eat all, to the glory of God…thank God for broccoli and those who eat it!
–Criticism of our brothers and sisters only make us look foolish.
–In the end, “Every knee will bow before me, says God and every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.” HE is GOD and we are NOT.
–We have our hands full taking care of growing in our own relationship with God. “I’m convinced–Jesus convinced me–that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.” THINK about that for a while!
–While we are busy disagreeing with each other, we need to remember that THESE and us, are people for whom Christ died!
–Our task: Be single minded, focused with eyes on Christ, as we serve Him to His glory, honor and praise. “Please God, proving your worth to the people around you.
–SO, “Let’s agree to use ALL our energy in getting along with each other.”
–Encourage each other. Don’t suck the life out of them with words that kill or maim.
–Be sensitive and courteous to all.
–CULTIVATE your own relationship with God…but don’t impose it on others. They don’t need our opinion…only Jesus!
–We are doing it right when our belief matches our behavior.
–Whew!…yes, cultivating, planting, growing is hard, tedious, sweaty work but the fruit that is gained is a glorious relationship with the Creator of all of us, God the Father and loving, growing relationships with each other!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to do all that your word has given us to munch on today. I need Your help. We all need Your help. Transform me. Transform the world.
In Jesus Name, Amen