Summary: How to recognize and handle the "issues" (I.E. problems, arguments, disagreements, and the like) in a manner which honors God.
Handling the Issues of Life
* Let’s begin our time this morning thinking of a duo, duet, and a “one-two” punch. This duo has the ability to steal, kill, and destroy. It can steal your reputation, kill your faith, and it can destroy your testimony. This dangerous duo is our heart and mouth. Believe it or not, the Bible teaches that these two are totally intertwined. Let’s read 2 scriptures.
* Matt. 12:34 - For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. (HCSB) Prov. 4:23 - Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (NKJV) Think about that, “The ISSUES” of life. What comes to your mind when you hear that word, “issue?” Certainly, the word carries many different meanings. However, when put this way we know that it means a problem, argument, disagreement or the like. In point of fact, an issue is something that demands our consideration & attention.
* In our text we read, “Don’t argue over doubtful issues.” What is the world are “doubtful issues?!”
* Were I to offer my personal definition, it would be “secondary issues” or “non-essential items” or maybe, “personal preferences.” It would seem that since Bible days there has been a tendency among the church folk to raise personal preference and desire to the level of theology. There are some issues which cannot be compromised at all, but there are far more issues which are based on our own opinion. Perhaps this is why Saint Augustine is quoted as saying, “In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, but in all things, charity.”
* Let’s refrain from making this merely a Bible lesson today and let’s agree to make this a personal lesson. That is, truths which we both take and respond to PERSONALLY. I know that many of us have said this phrase to me, “I have issues.” Let view this matter of issues in 2 categories.
1. DIVISIVE ISSUES – These are the doubtful issues (I.E. secondary, etc) which are debatable as well as those which accommodations can be made. Paul speaks to three as examples for us;
a) Practical things - The practical thing he begins with is “eating anything.” Paul writes that “one person believes you can eat ANYTHING while a “weaker person” only eats vegetables. Today, diets are big stuff. Fats, Carbs, sugars, and the like have become hugely controversial and have given birth to a multi-million dollar, “health” industry. Infomercials with weight control and health directives always include “a healthy diet” disclaimer. Yet, this is not the “eating” which Paul is talking about. Additionally, we can ‘think’ that Paul is referring to all those dietary restrictions for the Jewish people, which God laid out, in Leviticus. But the one old law which was doubtful & debated dealt with meat.
* In the context of His writing, Paul was referring to eating of meat which had been offered to idols. The circumstances were something like this; Meat was brought into town in mass quantities to be sacrifices to the pagan gods. The priests of those gods couldn’t devour it all, the gods (idols) had no need of the meat, and so a large quantity was left over. To keep the meat from spoiling (as well as to promote a profit, I would suspect), the leftover meat was taken to the market place (kind of like a secondary market) where it was sold to the public. The problem was that there was so much of this meat available that the public never knew where the meat had come from.
* The problem was compounded by the long standing belief which said believers would be sinning if they ate that type of meat. Many scholars this was, in large measure, new converts, those who had problems turning loose of the Old Way of the law and embracing the new way of liberty.
* I call this an example of “practical things” because there is nothing more practical than eating. Can you imagine a church dividing over eating? (Well, maybe) Candidly, to read verses 2-4 gives us a picture of an issue which was indeed divisive. Two groups of people had two basic beliefs, one was based on law while the other based on liberty and look at the hard feelings; “look down” on the other and “criticize” the other. If this is the First Church in Rome, it must not have been a Catholic Church; it must have been a Baptist church. Paul simply says, YOU MUST NOT DO IT.
* Does this message confuse anyone? Don’t be critical, don’t be pharisaical, and don’t be ungodly. This is a practical divisive issue.
b) Professional things – May I offer this? When someone wants to find an issue, if they cannot find it at one level of life, they will move on to another. If it weren’t bad enough to divide over practical issues, it would seem the some began the “hotline” concept of attacks. You know what the “hotline” concept is? Sure you do, at least once in your life you have been the recipient of a phone call which began “did you know?” Have you ever read 1 Timothy 5 where he is addressing the young widows, calling on them to remarry, have children, and manage the household? He says do this so you won’t become ‘busybodies.” The Greek work means “to become busy about trifle things and other people’s affairs while neglectful of their own personal important matters.” Paul asks a penetrating question which might help some of us, “Who are you to criticize?” The object of this question is this, “Who are you to criticize how a person or his workers perform, it’s none of your business.”