Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Brother's Keeper

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don't argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. … Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.  (Romans 14:1,4)  NLT

Christians seem to be known for our ability to judge those around us.  We have it all figured out and if those around us would just listen to us then everything would be fine.  We do our best to fix pretty much everyone, regardless of whether they're inside or outside the church.  Still, isn’t that what we were called to do?  Weren’t we called to straighten out our Christian brothers and sisters when they go down the wrong path?

When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin.  But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers.  You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.  What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler.  Don’t even eat with such people.
It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.  God will judge those on the outside; but as the scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) NLT

Doesn’t Paul say in this passage that Christians are supposed to judge other Christians?  He seems to say it fairly clearly.   But Romans chapter 14 seems to say exactly the opposite. 

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. … If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  (Romans 14:5-6, 8-10)  NLT

Paul looks at those of us who are bent out of shape over whether we should worship on Saturday or Sunday and says, worship on the day to which God has lead you!  We get stressed out about following the letter of the law, when instead we should be following the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  The direction of the Holy Spirit is our law.  In the passage from 1 Corinthians however, Paul is speaking about morality:  sexual sin, greed, swindlers, idol worshipers.  We are definitely responsible for not associating with Christians who are living an immoral life characterized by sin and selfishness.  But this is not the same thing as “What are we allowed to eat or drink?” or “On what day are we supposed to worship?”  So then why do we look to the left and to the right, searching for those who aren’t following Jesus the way we think they should?  Is that our job?

Those of us who are Christians do not all have identical backgrounds and life experiences.  We do not all grow at the same rate.  Where we are on our faith journey is ultimately between us and God.  Instead of looking around at everyone else and trying to get them to conform to our standard, maybe we should focus on our own spiritual growth and let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit for those around us.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need us to fill in for him.   And I’m just guessing that he’s smarter than us as well.

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