Beyond Sunday - Week 23

Beyond Sunday
Week of June 30, 2024
When In Rome Week 23Romans 14:1-23
Thoughts: There is an idiom in the English language that most of us are familiar with. It is “black and white.” It draws from the idea that something in print, in black and white, is concrete and clear. Its meaning is “of the utmost clarity; clearly defined or differentiated; without any room for confusion, ambiguity, or discrepancy.” When something is described as black and white, there is no room for disagreement. What can and should be known about it is clear.
Most of us like things to be clear. In fact, if we were so inclined to create one, our religious code would be black and white. It would be clearly laid out, so that we would know what to do and how to live. For the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders in Israel in the time leading up to and during the life of Jesus, they viewed the Torah in such a way. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in our Bible) and the Pharisees spent considerable time fine tuning the rules that were spelled out in the law found there. For them, the more detailed the rules, the less chance of breaking them. But then Jesus came along and told them they missed the point.
In John 5, we find a story of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees considered this against the rules. In fact, they could quote Jesus chapter and verse to support their argument. Jesus’ response: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,”.  In other words, “In all your religious studies, you are missing the point”. In another place, Jesus is catching flak for having dinner with people who were living questionable lifestyles. His response: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” This is an interesting response, because these people he was eating with were considered ceremonially unclean, and so the Pharisees were technically correct in their assessment. But once again, Jesus challenged the measuring stick they were measuring others with. What appeared to the Pharisees to be black and white, turned out not to be that way.
So it is on this backdrop that we take a look at Romans 14. As Pastor Kent shared on Sunday, Paul leads with this:
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.”
Paul’s statement lets us know that it is not a question of whether there are disputable matters, or even whether there should be disputable matters. It lets us know that they exist, but that they are not to be quarreled over. In other words, things are not always black and white.

Read Romans 14:1 – 23

Question: What is the main idea Paul wants us to get in verse 1?
If you are anything like me, the first response would be the idea of disputable matters. Which leads us into a discussion of what matters are disputable. Which probably leads to a dispute. But what if the main idea is “without quarreling”? In many of his letters, Paul appeals to Christians to avoid arguing. Here, he asks those to whom he is writing to take some very specific steps:
1) Accept the one whose faith is weak. (vs 1)
Accept: Not a passive verb. An active verb, directionally towards you. Also, Romans 14:3, 15:7.
In the KJV, the idea of disputable matters is communicated as “doubtful disputations”. This idea is derived from a root word meaning to ‘withdraw from’. The complete opposite of ‘accept’.
a) Paul makes a distinction here between people whose faith allows them to do certain things and those whose faith doesn’t allow them to do certain things.
a. How is it helpful for us to be aware that those distinctions exist?
b. Do you think it is our role to try and categorize people as such?
b) Why do you think Paul warns against “withdrawing from” one another?
2) Stop passing judgement on one another. (vs 13)
The idea of judgement here relates to distinguishing. In other words, to recognize or treat someone or something as different.
a) Read 2 Corinthians 5:16 - 18 
a. How are we supposed to regard each other?
b) What does the second half of Romans 14:13 tell us to do instead of passing judgement?
c) Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to be one “who correctly handles the word of truth.” So to balance this thought, we should look at 1 Corinthians 5:12. Here Paul tells the church at Corinth that they are to “judge those inside” their fellowship that are living immoral lives.
a. What is the difference between these two situations?
b. If you felt a situation required you to “judge those inside”, what would be a good approach to do that in a God honoring way?
3) Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (vs 19)
a) Read Proverbs 15:1-2. 
a. What type of response leads to peace?
b) What do you think Paul means by “mutual edification”?
c) What type of approach to relational issues lead to “mutual edification”?
d) How effective are you in recognizing when you are not “making every effort”?
4) So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. (vs 22)

a) What “things” do you think Paul is talking about here?
b) What does it look like to keep “these things” between yourself and God?
5) Read Genesis 11:1 – 9 

a) What did God say was possible if they worked “as one people speaking the same language”?
b) Do you think He would say the same thing about us today?
6) Read Psalm 133

a) How important is unity for God’s people?
b) How does that relate to what we have been looking at Romans 14?
Disagreements are inevitable. It is not always clear where to draw the line. That is because life is complex, people are complex. But we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to help us. We need to lean hard into both as we navigate life in the Body of Christ. But the overriding goal is unity. Because Jesus said in John 17:23 that when we are brought to complete unity, then the world will know that God sent his Son and that He loves them. And that is what we live for.

Pray for God to guide you to unity in the essentials and liberty in the non-essentials free of any judgment of others and their personal walks with the Lord.

Next Steps

1) If you have had a non-essential disagreement with someone and you have not reconciled, reach out to them and offer forgiveness.
2) We are better together in life-changing community. If you have not already, sign up to attend a summer small group here

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