(033) Accept One Another
Accept One Another
June 8, 2008
· Romans 14ff, 1 Cor 8, 10.
· Last week’s sermon, leftovers, two “weak bro” articles.
· First half of Marc’s Cor 10 sermon
Talked about alcohol and the Christians. Short versions: God gave wine as a blessing, but it has become a curse to many. Christians are allowed to drink, but drunkenness is forbidden.
This week is a continuation of that sermon, except on a much broader scope. Rather than focusing on drinking, we will look at the broad topic of “disputable matter”: Things that the Bible is not clear on and that Christians legitimately disagree on.
Unlike OT, the NT never intends to outline every aspect of life. It is as if God people are expected to grow up a little and no longer need babysitting.
· We are given a limited number of clear commands, but are to be guided by Biblical principles and the Holy Spirit.
· The law is written on our hearts, but we read it differently.
For instance: In reference to alcohol, the Bible is very clear that believers are not to get drunk and not be mastered by drink, but it does not answer specifics:
Q How often are allowed to drink?
Q What exactly is “drunk”?
Q How are we to instruct our kids about drinking?
Q Are certain forms of alcohol more acceptable than others?
The purpose of this sermon is 1) to help us examine our personal stand on all disputable issues in light of the Bible, and 2) show us how to interact with those who disagree with us.
This message can be boiled down to this one command from Paul, as he addressed disputable matters in Rome:
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7 NIV
· Examine our personal convictions in light of your word.
· Help us have grace and accept others, to your glory.
· When the world recognizes us by our love, you’ll be glorified.
A new DILEMMA
Acknowledging that there is such a thing as disputable issues is a mark of maturity for the believer and a church, even though it is indisputably Biblical, as we will see today.
Ä “Disputable matters” is nothing new in Christianity – we have a long, long tradition of disagreeing on stuff.
In the NT, pagan religions had no real emphasis on morality, other than loyalty to the state and civic responsibility.
Judaism had the entire Torah, and further clarified and defined rules ad nauseam.
These groups got along okay because they could “live and let live.” But as they both got saved, they had to start dealing with each other in the church and their different ethics.
Idol meat and devil music
Two passages, one in Romans and the other 1 Corinthians, deal with these questions. In both, Paul is dealing with a similar disputable matter: Meat sacrificed to idols.
We don’t argue about meat sacrificed to idols, but we have our own list of disputable matters, things that Christians can legitimately disagree on.
Let’s begin by muddying the waters. Each of these items will elicit thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Think about 1) why you think that and 2) how you feel about believers who disagree.
1. Movies: “R” rated movies; R for violence, R for nudity.
4. Wear a bikini in public.
5. Spank their children, not spank children.
6. Size of family, natural home birth or C-section?
7. Home school, private or public?
8. Which political party?
9. Go dancing, in a bar.
10. What swear words are allowed? Darn it? Shut up?
11. Play cards, go to a casino; work at a casino.
12. Work on Sunday.
13. Eat a lot of fast food or eat organic.
14. Smoke a pipe, smoke cigars, or smoke cigarettes.
Remember the two questions I asked you to keep in mind? They will frame our goal this morning:
Q How do we develop our own conscience on these issues?
Q How are we to interact with each other on contentious issues?
· On every one of these issues, there are Christians that believe the exact opposite of you, and believe they are right.
Everything is permissible
Ä First, it’s crucial we know why we make the choices we make.
Too many believer create their list either in keeping with their upbringing or in rebellion to it, without considering “why” and “what does the Bible REALLY say?”
Ä Paul says that each must be fully convinced (Rom. 14:5).
23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Romans 14:22-23 NIV
· EG: Two engaged couples, one not kissing before marriage.
· Violating our conscience is dangerous, regardless of how ill informed it is.
So it is vital that we critically consider our choices, and ensure that we are doing things for the right reasons.
Again, there are many issues that the Bible does not give clear direction. Don’t have sex outside of marriage is pretty clear, but we aren’t told what base we can get to.
"Everything is permissible"-- but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-- but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake-- 29 the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God-- 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 NIV
Ä This passage has many principles embedded in it, plus I will use other Biblical principles in creating a check list:
1. Is it permissible? What does the Bible say? Can I do it? (Includes not breaking the law or disobey parents.)
2. Is it beneficial? Should I do it?
· Beating my head with a hammer may be permissible, but not beneficial. A 48 hour xBox marathon is not beneficial.
· Does it help grow? May not be directly (EG: Exercise)
3. Is it dangerous to me? Does it violate my conscience?
· Based on your background and weakness, which may change.
· “To me”: Do not put your conscience on others.
· Noel: I can’t drink because of my mistakes.
4. Does it glorify God? Would you be nervous if Jesus peaked in?
Ä These first four questions answer whether or not we should do it, the last two answer when and how.
5. Is it evangelistic? Will people make people love Jesus?
· We should hang out with non-Christians, but not violate God’s commands, nor our conscience.
· Beer at most weddings are, but in Mexico would not be.
6. Is it loving? Will it build up believers, or tear down?
· This is anti-American! We are far more focused on our rights than giving up freedom for others.
· We must be willing at any point to abstain from any of our freedoms for the sake of others.
The moment I allow my “disputable matter” to causes someone to violate their conscience, it becomes indisputably wrong!
Ä Like Christ we are to care more for the welfare of others than our freedom.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." Romans 15:1-2 NIV
Weak BELIEVERS and Stumbling blocks
Ä This expression “weak” requires some explanation.
In Romans 14:1 (which we will come to soon) Paul refers to those who are “weak in faith.”
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. Romans 14:1 NASB
This means one who is immature in their Christian walk (“the Faith”) and the freedoms therein. They are unsettled in their minds regarding disputable matters.
· Mature believer were tempted “help them” by talking them into these freedoms.
Irony: The end result is not greater maturity but injury as they violate their conscience, which can be devastating.
It would be like “helping” Peter recover from his 3rd degree burns by kicking his open wounds with manure covered boot. “I’m toughening you up!” That’s fine if he has no wounds.
· In fact, we are not serving them, but serving our own ego.
Ä You have probably also heard the expression “stumbling block.”
This is an action or argument that encourages a brother to fall back into sin. I believe this means actively entrapping him (the root of stumble), not him accidently seeing you in your freedom.
For a weaker brother to know that you have greater freedoms is not a stumbling block. If it were, Paul wouldn’t broadcast that eating meat sacrificed to idol was fine, or that those who think else wise are weaker.
· Some believers think they should hide buying beer, and for their circumstance that might be appropriate, but I disagree.
At the same time, stronger Christians be respectful and not flaunt their freedoms. It is unkind and unChrist-like to have a Christian on “the patch” over and smoke a cigar.
Professional weaker brothers
What I have seen happen (thought not here) is for believers who are quite strong in their faith using this “weaker brother” argument to push their own scruples on an entire church.
· DTS: Katie and secular music.
Nor is it “stumbling” when we seek to help weaker brothers become stronger and more mature. We should never push them to do something against their conscience, but we can help them grow and help them accept their brothers and sisters who disagree.
Ä This first half looked at how we decided what we, as individuals, can and cannot do.
Getting along – trouble in rome
Now we look at how we interact with those who disagree with us on disputable matters. Unlike the previous passage which is exclusively addressed to the strong, this is addressed to both.
The church in Rome was struggling with its own “disputable matters.” Paul addressed tension that came from a church that had been largely Jewish, then became Gentile in their absence.
· Any time that you have massive shift and change, you will have tension, as the personality of the group changes.
· TG has done well with these tensions, mostly avoiding us/them.
The issue in Rome was also a food issues, but these were symptomatic of larger tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers. Again, he allows for different opinions.
· His response is not “Everyone must believe the same thing,” it’s “accept each other, show love and grace.”
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:1-4 NIV
· His specific commands to each group are incredibly insightful, for they perfectly address the sins each are prone to commit.
The stronger brother is inclined to “look down,” to show disdain, to patronize. This is a proud attitude that says if you were a better Christian you would see things my way.
· With it comes an attitude that tries to shove the weaker brother towards embracing their view.
Conversely, the weaker brother is inclined to judge the stronger, to condemn him or her, to have the view that “if they were more holy, they wouldn’t do that.”
· On varying issues, we take turns being strong or weak.
· Be very careful about imposing your personal standards on disputable matters on others.
Q What is the reason that we are not to look down or judge?
A Because it frankly is none of our business.
4 Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 NIV
It is not our job to make our fellow believers toe our line. If they’re in clear sin, then we’re obligated to lovingly confront.
· There is a distinct difference between accountability and trying to be God’s little helper.
Accept one another
And what is the overarching command? Accept one another, because God has accepted him, and you.
· Accept is a relational term, bring into your circle, not simply tolerate but welcome as a brother or sister.
Even though we may disagree (strongly) on some points, we’re one family, around the world, in this valley, and in this church.
Nowhere does Paul state that the weaker and stronger believer has to agree with each other on everything, but rather we must accept each other, as God has accepted us, showing grace and love for each other.
Ä Close by looking at our responsibility to each other:
Strong’s responsibility to the weak
· Be more concerned about the wellbeing of others than your freedoms; if someone has an issue, back off.
· Be cautious in using your freedoms, so they do not damage.
· Don’t look down or try to convince.
· Accept the weak and welcome them. Our differing views should not become the great dividing line in the church.
Weak’s responsibility to the Strong
· Lovingly and humbly inform a stronger brother of stumbling blocks rather than withdrawing.
· Don’t condemn.
· Don’t gossip! If you believe they are in error, lovingly and prayerfully confront them directly.
· Show grace and accept each other in love.
Ä All of this can be summed up: “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, love.”
On various issues, each of us may take turns being stronger and weaker, but please keep us from letting the little things become big deals.
· Help us value community more than our own freedoms or personal scruples.
Ä An important case-in-point of “accepting one another” is found in the issue of serving wine for communion.
After a lot of discussion both together as elders and with members of the church, the elders unanimously decided to stop serving wine along for communion for the time being.
First I need to give some background:
· I wanted to add the wine.
· Elders unanimously approved it.
· I did a lousy job of introducing it.
· A lot of people had grave concerns about the change.
This all lead to the elders re-evaluating it. First, we realized that it is crucial that we have a set method for evaluating new church practices, especially ones that are potentially controversially, so we developed these three questions:
1. Is this practice Biblical, and if so, is it mandated?
If it is Biblical, but not mandated, then we proceed:
2. Is it beneficial to the church: Will it bring growth and maturity? Will it harm? Is it consistent with visions and the mission of the church?
If this is also answered affirmatively, then we precede:
3. Do we choose to do it?
On this issue we decided that wine for communion is clearly Biblical, but do not feel it is mandated.
We also decided that it is beneficial to the church. Some of our members have expressed that they prefer using wine and that for them it was made communion more meaningful.
I believe, based upon my research, but speaking for myself, that communion wine, offered as an option, is not likely to cause a recovering alcoholic to “stumble” by “falling off of the wagon.”
· I do not think the wine is a stumbling block.
However, as we asked the last question, we decided not to do it, for the presence of wine in the church stirs up such powerfully negative emotions in some members that it hinders their worship.
Accordingly, we decided that to remove the wine for the time being, as an act of love and acceptance. At the same time, because of positive impact the communion wine has had on other members, we hope to someday see it restored as it ceases to be a hindrance through spiritual growth and understanding.
· This certainly has been a controversial topic (my fault), but it the spirit of unity, I invite you all to “accept one another” as we partake together of communion.