Through the Eyes of Christ: Devotional Commentary for October 7-13
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
14I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.
16Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;
17for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
In last week's devotional meditation, we learned that no one has the right or the authority to judge anyone because each individual child is under God's direct sovereign Care. However, Paul's concern was not exclusively tied to exercising self-control in voicing one's opinion about others. While that was one of the desired outcomes, Paul was concerned more about the manner in which believers viewed each other.
In Paul's days, the community of the faithful was sharply divided over eating food sacrificed to idols and observing holy days and designated feasts. In other words, believers were appraising each other on standards associated with certain socially and culturally valued grounds. These conventions were designed to measure the believer's faith by reviewing how well one complied to the law or to tradition.
But not so, says Paul. The believer is free in the Lord; not against the Law or contrary to its precepts, but free in Jesus Christ, nevertheless. Being under the Care and Direction of the Holy Spirit, the believer gradually begins to respond to the affairs of life with a renewed mind and a transformed conscience. The steps of a transformed conscience are marked by spirit-generated convictions which inform the actions and the responses of the believer to the details of life.
Therefore, any criticism aimed at the attitudes and behaviors of a believer based on reactions toward social and cultural practices is effectively an act of derecognition of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer's heart. If the Christian considers a certain practice unacceptable based on a sacred and true principle instilled in his heart by the Holy Spirit, then the consecrated preference of the believer must be respected in deference to the Holy Spirit. He or she should not be condemned or ostracized for being different. Neither the holder of such convictions nor the Christian community should feel strange about privately held godly positions that may be different from commonly held conventions.
If eating meat is unacceptable to the vegetarian, then the sentiments of the vegetarian must be respected by those who delight in savoring meat. Likewise, the feelings of those who enjoy meat should be respected by the vegetarian. This basic principle offers the guiding light for responding to behavioral differences among Christians in any area. We should not let our preferences be a stumblingblock to the different or the weak among us. Our preferences should not be the source of grief to those who do not share our convictions. Nor should different preferences relegate a brother or a sister to the ridicule of disapproving opinions held by the self-righteous.
The Kingdom of God is not about food, drink, or preferences of any kind or sort. It is about the Righteousness of Christ, His Peace and Joy in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. A believer who serves God in the Righteousness of Christ and rests in the Peace and Joy of our Lord pleases God and is also credible before men. But treating each other on the basis of our choices is actually an attitude of indifference toward God's Work in the life of His Children. Anyone who disparages or belittles another for being different causes hurt to someone for whom Jesus died and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and works. Anyone who hurts a brother or a sister in Christ does not operate in love nor stands on Truth. Such outlook is contrary to the Ways of Christ.
Paul was a man of rich religious, social, and cultural experiences of his time. Being a pharisaic zealot Jew at first, and a Christian sold out to the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ later, he understood the conflict between Judaism and Christianity and the consequent difference between the respective adherents. He knew the self-righteousness in legalistic conservatism and the heedless liberty in a misperceived idea of freedom. It was a misperception of Law and Grace, both of God, from God, and by God.
We have already noted that Christians should not condemn one another for being different. That would be usurping God's direct Authority over the souls He redeemed in particular, and men in general. However, the issue of passing judgment on each other is more complex than just the authority to judge.
- When we condemn a brother or a sister in Christ for his or her preferences or choices of food, material goods, company or relationships, appearance, profession, or anything else, we are effectively acknowledging that, for the Christian, the Kingdom of God is all about objects and preferences or choices. But the Kingdom of God is about Righteousness, Peace and Joy in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.
- When we reprehend others for being incongruent with our own personal standards, we are actually putting ourselves in a position of authority over others in place of God. But all Power and Authority on earth and in heaven is given to Jesus Christ, not to the Christian, the King, or even the priest.
- When we set the criterion for measuring the believer's compliance to any standard, we are in effect showing indifference to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the life of God's children. Conservative, liberal, or otherwise, when we behave this way, we have become unashamedly self-righteous. We dishonor the glorious Name of our Savior and our Father.
Both the narrow focus of the conservative and the unbridled freedom of the liberal can be profitably corrected by God's Truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures. But when the liberal chides the legalist for being more uptight than him, and, when the conservative derides the liberal for appearing more irresponsible than him, both are reflecting self-righteousness in their demands for compliance to their own personal standards.
Self-righteousness is destructive and displeasing to God. It demeans others and wounds the conscience of weaker brothers and sisters. It blinds the mind and suffocates the spirit. It disrupts fellowship with our Father. It grieves the Holy Spirit. Self-righteousness should not be allowed to influence the life of a child of God. Jesus Christ lives in us by the Spirit. He works through us to bless and love others. Should we then disrupt the flow of divine love with our condescension? God forbid!
The Kingdom of God is about the Righteousness of the Lamb of God which is credited to undeserving sinners like us. It is about the Peace that the Holy Spirit instilled in us because God is at Peace with us. It is about the Joy of our salvation which is fulfilled by Jesus Christ in His finished Work. Therefore, we ought to view each other in the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. We ought to accept each other in the Peace of Christ in spite of our superficial differences. Our differences are inconsequential both spiritually and eternally.We ought to celebrate each other in the Joy of our salvation in Christ. Together we can discern the errors of our ways and submit ourselves to the correcting Power of God's transforming Truth. Our minds renewed and our conscience transformed, we can bear up with each other as different members of the same Body because Jesus Christ is our Head, Cornerstone, and Foundation. We trust God for each other because we belong to Him altogether. We are not called to look down at each other, but to look out for one another.