A friend once told me how he and his wife were celebrating their anniversary in a hotel they had booked for one night. They were enjoying their meal in the restaurant which involved a very nice wine. They were not big drinkers by any stretch of the imagination but nevertheless they were secret drinkers for the vast majority of their friends were teetotal and viewed alcohol as demon-drink. The couple were enjoying their evening when all of a sudden my friend spotted 2 couples that they knew come into the same hotel restaurant. They only had a split second to decide what to do so my friend said to his wife to do what he did and follow him. He gulped down all the wine and hid the bottle out of sight. They then very quietly tip-toed and walked down the side of the bar and out of the restaurant back to their room. No one saw them. However, because he stood up so quickly and was rushing, the wine seemed to have had a bit of an effect and instead of walking past the bar he had to rest his arm on it to stop the dizziness and slid the whole length creating quite a comical scene! The picture he had created was far worse than the scene if his friends had seen him have a glass of wine in his hands. However, for him, it was worth the risk rather than face the wrath of the judging panel.
We seem to be coming to the part in this letter to the Church in Rome which gives the reason why Paul writes it. There is division within. There are those who look down on others, he calls them the strong in faith believers. Then there are those who condemn the strong in faith believers, he calls them the weak in faith. What exactly is going on is not clear. But isn’t that the same when ‘disputable matters’ (v1) boil over into the public domain today? I’ve been in church all my life and in some form of church leadership for 35 years. When I look back on the ‘disputable matters’ over the years and the intolerance that has surfaced it looks really petty and pathetic today.
We have a glimpse from Paul but we still have to guess much of what the division is about. The strong eat anything and every day is a sacred day; the weak eat only vegetables and a certain day is more sacred. It seems nonsense to us in 2022. Okay let’s read the verses:
“One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14 v 2-6)
Are you caught up in a ‘disputable matter’ today? In future years will people look back and think it petty?
“Who are we to judge someone else’s servant?” That person which we either look down upon or condemn belongs to the Lord and it is the Lord who will judge them.
The person that we are intolerant with may truly believe that their practice, behaviour and belief is in alignment with the Lord’s will for their life. Isn’t that the same with us? So isn’t the main point that God is glorified? What is good for them may not be good for me but so long as God is worshipped, glorified, honoured, isn’t that the most important point?
Of course, like any parent who steps into their children’s argument and ends up being the villain, often those who try to unite the church end up being the worse enemy.
One thing I do believe is that when we breathe our last here on earth and enter our eternity, the disputes that occupied our lives with such passion will not matter one jot. The fights we had because we have to be right will fall to the earth as we realise we wasted a lot of time on the petty and pathetic. “Who are you to judge …?”