Summary: It’s not our job to change other people; instead, we’re called to accept those who are wired differently than we are.
January 26, 2003
Accept One Another
How many of you will be watching the Super Bowl today? While some of you won’t even turn on your TV, according to a poll released by Time magazine, 40% of us will watch just to see the new commercials, while over 50% of Americans are just ready for some football! In fact, there are some people who are so psyched about the Super Bowl that they won’t let anything keep them from tuning in. A survey on eBay reports that 66% of men would skip the birth of their firstborn child in order to watch the big game! I don’t think that’s a very good idea.
It’s been interesting this week to hear about how the two teams are sizing each other up, identifying weaknesses, and drawing up game plans in the hopes of destroying their opponent. While the Super Bowl may be the most popular sporting event on TV, the favorite indoor sport of many Christians is sizing up each other, identifying differences, and slicing up the body of Christ. It’s much easier to bash brothers and smash sisters than it is to authentically accept one another.
When the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s, Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec and to wait for the British land forces to arrive so he could support them when they attacked the city. As the admiral waited, he became annoyed by the statues of some saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral, and so he commanded his men to shoot at them with the ships’ cannons. When the signal was finally given to attack, the admiral was of no help because he had used up all his ammunition shooting at the “saints.” (Daily Bread)
Unfortunately, the same could be said about some of us today. When God calls on us to do something great for Him we have nothing left to give because we’ve used up our ammo shelling the saints. That reminds me of an issue of National Geographic that included a photograph of the fossil remains of two saber-tooth cats locked in combat with this caption: “One had bitten deep into the leg bone of the other, a thrust that trapped both in a common fate.” The cause of the death of the two cats is as clear as the reason for their extinction. They could not survive because they were too busy fighting each other. I wonder if that picture fits our church today? As the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:15: “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
As we’ve been learning in this series, we’re each called to do some “body building” by caring for one another, being united with one another, and learning to love one another, including the preborn. This morning our focus in on “accepting one another.” Initially, I was going to have us look at the first eight verses of Romans 14. But, as I’ve read them over and looked at the context, I’ve decided to expand our study to include all of chapter 14 and the first seven verses of chapter 15. But don’t worry; I’m not going to go any longer than I normally do. On second thought, since the game doesn’t start until 5:30, I guess I have plenty of time.
Because we’re going to bite into a large section, we won’t have the pleasure of going verse-by-verse this morning. Instead, I want to give you an overview and spell out six avenues to acceptance that I see in this passage. Paul is introducing us to two distinct groups of people in the church at Rome: the weak and the strong, or as one pastor refers to them, the “weak” and the “weaker.”
These believers were divided over special diets and special days. The big problem back then was whether it was OK for a Christian to eat meat that might have been offered to an idol before it was sent to Bob the Butcher. Was it wrong to eat meat? Some had no issue with this at all, while others felt that by eating meat a person could become spiritually contaminated. This group followed a strict diet and felt that some days were more spiritual than others. The second group had just one big hang up: group #1. They felt they could indulge in rib eyes and worship on any day they wanted.
A “weak” believer is one who hasn’t fully grasped the extent of his or her freedom in Christ and whose conscience is therefore bothered by lifestyle choices or preferences that don’t really matter in the long run. A “strong” brother or sister is the one who can exercise his freedom in Christ with a clear conscience.