“I’m leaving the Church!” Every Pastor has heard these words. It comes with the territory. One Sunday morning after the service a ‘brother in the Lord’ pulled me to one side and said, ‘Enough is enough, I asked you to speak to that woman and today she blasphemed the Lord’s table once again, so me and my family, we’re off.’ On this occasion I was so happy and relieved! My Christian brother had recently joined the Church and was determined to cleanse us from all impurities that were on his list. The woman he spoke about was a recent convert from a terrible background. She came forward to the Communion table that morning wearing once a t-shirt with a slogan that was obviously on my brother in the Lord’s list! I wasn’t bothered what she was wearing I was just grateful that she was there! I had suggested he closed his eyes and focused on the Lord but I guess when you are cleaning up the Church you have to keep them open.
The truth is that what this new convert was wearing at the Communion Table had absolutely nothing to do with him. It was none of his business. It was however, the business of the Lord and I was yet to see any thunder strikes!
Paul is hitting hard in this section of his letter. There is a problem in the Church in Rome. They are trying to dictate to one another over disputable matters. One side are condemning and the other side are looking down with contempt.
“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” (Romans 14 v 7-12)
If we all simply focused on our own discipleship, aiming to follow Jesus closer, listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying about our own conduct, making changes because we want to glorify God and not please man, the Church would be a safer place. It is one thing living your life within accountable structures and we all need them to grow but they do not have the final say over our lives, God does. Paul quotes from Isaiah 45 which is set in the context of God being in charge, He is Sovereign and it is to Him alone we will give an account.
A lot of people leave Churches because they are offended at what others are wearing or other ‘disputable matters’ like ‘steak and broccoli’. They need to understand that in order to get their own lives ready to kneel before Him in the final accountable end-of-life moment, they don’t have the time or the energy to be campaigning against someone else. They should indeed mind their own business.