Your Sin Is Not My Sin (Romans, Chapter 14)
7 Jun 2008
I’ve been taking college Bible classes for a few months now, and recently had an interesting discussion that started out on the topic of whether church leaders should drink alcohol or not. Most felt that it would look bad for a leader to partake despite that fact that alcohol is used freely in the Bible, and a strong argument can be made for its encouragement.
Their scriptural support came from one particular verse: Romans 14:20. If we look at Romans, Chapter 14, as a whole we find a much bigger message. A message that deals with more than just drinking or eating meat sacrificed to idols. Don’t get me wrong, freedom in Christ does not give one the green light on everything, but there are many things not spoken of in the Bible that we must make decide for ourselves. This is an excerpt of my final post regarding the topic.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know what a modern day Templar Knight is, but it doesn’t matter. I can make a strong case, Biblically, for drinking wine, but cannot say the same for a fraternity. This makes it a perfect example of an opinion as described in Rom 14:1.
First, Romans 14:20, “it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats” is being used out of context. Once this verse is placed back into the entire chapter and read as a whole, we find that food, wine, and days of worship are being used as examples.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Rom 14:12-13)
John, you felt that your pursuit of God, and the fraternity did not conflict with each other, and you felt secure in your faith with that decision. If you had not given it up, would it have caused others to stumble, or question, in their faith, or would they merely have been upset with you? Rom 14:4 asks, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” The friction you received was from those who not only passed judgment on you, but put a stumbling block in the way of your faith. Their prejudice caused you to question what you approve. Romans 14:16 says, “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.”
My Grandmother-In-Law (if there is such a title), gave up chocolate during WWII. I guess it was a sacrifice made to help bring the war to an end. She is strong in her faith, and continues to abstain. She doesn’t care if people eat chocolate in front of her as she is not tempted by it. If, however, she were tempted then it would be wrong of me or anyone else to eat chocolate in front of her, as it may cause her to stumble. That does not mean I should always abstain from chocolate, only around her.
The difference between these two situations is faith. She gave up chocolate, because it was a personal choice that was made in faith, and she intends to keep that faith. You gave up the fraternity, through prayer and faith, but only after you were made to stumble by those who judged you. I can extend this to the use of alcohol by saying that I would abstain from drinking around others who may be tempted to join in, even though it is wrong for them, and not for me.
I want to ask you a question, but I want it clear that I am not asking you to change your sacrifice, as that is a choice you have made and are comfortable with. What if someone joined your church who is not in a position of leadership, but is a member of the same fraternity you belonged to? What if they started receiving friction from those who are prejudice against the fraternity. You stated that you did not feel it was in contradiction with God, so when the new member and the other members come to you, what do you say? Do you relate to the new member your personal sacrifice? As a leader, trying to live by example, you may give the impression that this is the path the new member should take.
If the new member follows your lead, we must ask why? Did he/she make this choice out of prayer and faith through God. If this is the case, then he/she will be happy with their decision. If not?
And what of those who are prejudice? They are once more “victorious” in their pursuit, giving them more ammunition for further judgments against others, more fodder for them to boast, and further validation of their “righteousness.”
What if the new member decides that they are not going to leave the fraternity? He or she may become disillusioned with your church if the pursuit of those who are prejudice persists. In this case he or she may leave for another church, or leave the church entirely, speaking ill of your church or Christianity as a whole. Those who are prejudice will probably be angry at his or her decision to stay, causing a rift in your church until the “offender” leaves.
As you can see, it is not as simple as just having a beer. If I were always in the presence of someone who may be tempted by my actions, I would give it up, but the reality is that there is a bigger problem in the church that needs to be addressed. That is the holier than thou attitude, that some pass on to others. The judgment made that you are not as strong in your faith, or a “baby Christian” because you partake in something that others find “sinful.” This is a disease that has worked its way into Christ’s Church and has created thousands of splinter churches, each with its own beliefs, and its own holier than other churches mentality. It’s a problem not only between denominations, but between churches of the same denomination, or non-denomination, down the road from each other.
It needs to end, and church leaders need to “take a stand.” We need to explain to people, that your sin is not necessarily my sin, or your brothers or sisters sin. It may be wrong for a church leader to ever drink, if he or she is working with a group of alcoholics, but it is a situation that that leader would have to determine for his or her self. We as leaders can not sit back and say, “that person is not setting a good example.” Really? “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?”
As leaders we need to dismantle the judgment of others. If a new member came to your church, and the friction between that member and those who are prejudice came before you, how would you handle it?
Based on the teaching of Romans 14, I would tell the new member that they must pray for guidance , clarity, and confidence in the decision they make. It is not a decision for me to make. I would also point out the error in the ways of those who are prejudice in their judgment of others, and ask them to refrain. I may lose some members of the church this way, but I would rather lose members by pointing out the truth in God’s Word. Romans 14:19 says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” This can only be done if we pursue peace through faith. If those causing trouble leave, I would seriously wonder where their faith really stands. The truth in God’s Word does not appeal to all.
Let us not drive the wedge further into Christ’s church.
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