Summary: A look at Romans 14 to determine what Christians can do to encourage others in the faith while growing towards Righteousness in our own lives as well.
So often, the things that the world considers to be joy giving are in very stark contrast to the message of the gospel. It is perhaps no more clearly illustrated than in our scripture reading for today.
Looking at the political world, the business world, the
financial world, the world of education, virtually anyplace one might look, it becomes very clear that the way of the world is to put stumbling blocks in the path of others in order to slow their progress and in doing so, give us the “edge” in passing them by and leaving them to watch the dust rise ahead of them as we speed past on the road of life.
But what is it that is to really give us Joy as disciples of Christ? Paul lays it out in pretty clear terminology in the book of Romans when he encourages us to pursue righteousness and in doing so find Peace and Joy. So, what does Righteousness look like?
Righteousness, can be secured by the attitude that we carry with us in life. If we are obsessed by a competitive Spirit, we will never approach it. If we are constantly trying to bring another down, we will never approach it. If we are carrying a spirit of bitterness within us, we will never achieve righteousness.
While our text for today addresses foods that were thought of to be sinful to eat by the audience of the letter, the issue isn’t really food at all. It is something entirely different that impedes our pursuits of righteousness in today’s world.
There are churches and entire denominations that are built around lists of do’s and don’ts regarding a pursuit of righteousness. And those are thought by many to be the way to achieve righteousness.
Many think that righteousness can be obtained by pursuits of the classical spiritual disciplines. Prayer, Meditation, Fasting, Worship, Study, and a host of other disciplines. While I advocate strongly for Christians to begin to live out those disciplines in their lives, I don’t believe for a minute that Righteousness will ever be obtained exclusively by the
pursuit of the spiritual disciplines. They may open the door to righteousness, but they in and of themselves are of little use if the spirit behind the disciplines is too pious.
False piety is one of the greatest errors of many in the church today. False piety can never lead to Godly
righteousness, but rather serves as SELF righteousness which is counter to our goals as disciples of Jesus Christ.
It also is counter-productive when we adopt a Pharasaical approach to the disciplines and shout our piety from the rooftops. Making sure that others know when we have undertaken a fast or using flowery language in our prayers in such a way to impress others. Doing this, we risk the pursuit of self righteousness and drift further from the Righteousness
that God is calling us to. I frequently listen to sermons on tape and to people who pray on television, radio and public meetings and I am amazed at how often the prayers that are given following those sermons seem to be directed to the people sitting in the pews rather than the true audience of prayer which is God and God alone. To quote scripture and explain matters of theology to God during a prayer, (which often happens) is merely an extension of the sermon in many
cases and is not what true prayer should really be about. My solution? If you have another point to make in your sermon go ahead and preach the extra few minutes and let your prayer be what it should be: a cry of the heart to God to help you live the life of faith you have just proclaimed.
Many think that our behaviors and activities are the key to righteousness. These folks compile lists of things that a good Christian should never do. Women, they say, should never wear slacks of a pair of jeans. They’ll tell you that a Christian woman should never wear make-up, cut her hair or do anything to improve her self-esteem or outward appearance. Some of you may remember when Mike Warnke was making the rounds as a Christian comedian, I haven’t been a fan of his since he was found to be telling a lot of falsehoods about his own biography. But, whether or
not he was totally forthcoming about his own background, there is no disputing that some of his stuff was funny and some of it was fairly sound theologically. One of the comments I remember him making when he was on tour and I saw him in Springfield quite a few years ago was when he commented on the frequent question that people would ask him. That being, “How much make-up should a Christian woman wear”? Mike’s response was humorous, but also not far off from a balanced perspective when he said, “That sort of depends on her face”! (On a side note, have you ever noticed how many of the rules on appearance that some of our more fundamentalist brothers and sisters seem to revolve around what a woman can do and seldom address how men are to dress or behave?) I suppose if we were to live by all of the laws of dress and appearance that can be found in the Old Testament all of the women would wear floor length dresses and never cut their hair and the men would always wear a beard. But, none-the-less, we don’t hold to all of the code. So why do some insist on picking and choosing bits and pieces of it and assume that through it we can obtain righteousness? Taking one verse of Scripture out of context and placing our entire pursuit of righteousness on that single verse will never get us there.