Disagreeing Well
Sermon Summary
Romans 14

 

          The church at Rome to which Paul wrote was having a food fight.  Some people believed that food sacrificed to idols was OK to eat, while others thought that it was sinful to eat it.  But Paul didn’t come down and agree with either side.  Instead, he wrote to the congregation in our passage for today and showed them how to disagree, and to disagree well.
          Paul says that the people in the church need to accept one another.  It isn’t their place to say who is “in” and who is “out.”  That’s God’s job.  To say that our brother and sister who disagree with us about religious matters isn’t a Christian is “above our pay grade” as a former manager of mine liked to say.
          The reasons?  Paul lists three.  The first is that God is the master of the household and only he can judge.  When we become believers in Jesus Christ, we become part of a new family, the family of God.  That makes us all brothers and sisters.  And in this household, God is the master.  Paul tells us that we shouldn’t judge those of another household.  He’s basically telling us to mind our own business and focus on cleaning up our own house first.  That reminds me of Jesus’ comment regarding taking the log out of our own eye so that we can better see to take the splinter out of our brothers eye.
          The second reason we aren’t to judge is that what people do from sincere convictions is being done unto the Lord.  In Rome, those that were eating meat were doing so with praise and thanksgiving to God.  Those that refrained from meat were doing so in honor of God.  In this case, Paul tells us, if we operate from sincere convictions, unto the Lord, we should accept one another.  That doesn’t mean we don’t discuss our convictions or try to persuade others, but it means we do so from humility and a sense of goodwill that assumes the other person is operating from godly motives.
          Finally, Paul states that we will all face God’s judgment.  God will, in the end, judge our deeds done in the body.  He’ll let us know where we fell short of the mark and where we’ve done well.  This isn’t a judgment about whether we make it into heaven, but a judgment of the quality of life we’ve lived in serving our common Lord.  That’s why we don’t need to judge our brothers and sisters, God will do that—he’s appointed Jesus to be our judge.
          So, how do we disagree well?  It’s inevitable that in church we’re going to disagree over some things.  How we interpret some things in the Bible.  What we emphasize as central in the Christian life.  What behaviors are sinful and what are not.  Disagreeing well doesn’t mean we necessarily change our minds.  But it does mean that we operate under the auspices of Jesus’ new commandment—to love one another.  We try to listen with an open mind.  We tolerate divergent opinions.  We don’t exclude or call people non-Christian.  We give them the benefit of the doubt.
          In Jesus Christ, God is breaking down the walls that divide us.  Paul is reminding the Romans of that central fact.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free in Jesus.  We’re all part of the family of God.  And that means that humanity, in all its striking diversity, is going to be represented.  And I think God is ok with that—he says he’s ok with that!  Let’s live in peace with our brothers and sisters, and let God sort it out in the end.