Summary: We please God as we live in peace and harmony with each other.
This morning I again begin with a question that I would like three volunteers to answer, “What has been the most peaceful and relaxing vacation or day away from home that you have ever had and why?”
I wasn’t sure what we were going to hear this morning but I was fairly sure that “peace and quiet” or “everybody had a good time or got along together” was going to be mentioned in some way.
Peace is one of those things that everybody seems to want more and more of these days especially at this point in history and this particular week with our Presidential election on Tuesday. But what kind of peace do we seek?
Jesus spoke often of peace sometimes in a contradictory way. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus said. “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword.” Yet we read in Luke 2:14 the angelic proclamation, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” Finally we read in John 14:27 Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” What is Jesus getting at?
In the first instance Jesus is talking about the cost of following Him and that it will cause tension in families between those who follow Him and those who do not. In the second instance (one we will hear frequently in the next two months) the angels announce the peace of God on those whom He favors with the coming of the Christ child. In the third instance Jesus is telling the disciples during the Last Supper that the peace that He is giving them is not the peace of the world – here today and gone tomorrow because it is based on circumstances instead of the character of God – but a peace of heart and mind that is very different from what is offered by society.
Our text for this morning is in the middle of a chapter that addresses the issue of conflict that arises through differences of opinion. Such conflict is common at work, at home, at school, on the playing field, and at church. Conflicts run the gamut from differences of opinion on how to do something to serious personal conflicts that can cause splits to take place.
The conflict that Paul is addressing in this passage of scripture has to do with the eating of meat offered to idols. Some believers felt that it was wrong to eat meat that had been offered and others did not feel the same way. Paul is trying to help them sort through the conflict and come to a set of decisions that is designed to strengthen the relationship between believers by respecting where the other believer stands on not just this issue but other issues as well. Why? Verse 13, “Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.”
Now there are some things that scripture is clear on which leave no room for disagreement. Things like the value of human life, the need for salvation, and the reality of final judgment to name a few.
But there are differences of opinion on other issues that we need to learn to make allowances for in such a way as to not cause another follower of Christ to lose faith and give it up. That is where the peace of God comes in.
In verse 14 and following, Paul does what every good pastor tries to do, he points believers to a “common ground” that all must stand on – the effect of one’s actions on the faith of another by saying in verse 15 “If another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.”
A very important way that we please God is by allowing the peace of God to not just dwell in our hearts but to serve as a guide in living in peace and harmony with one another. “The Christian faith,” or as Paul puts it in verse 17, “The Kingdom of God,” “ is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Now perhaps you are asking a question like, “Where does the line get crossed from pleasing God and not causing someone’s faith to fall to needlessly trying to please people over things that really do not matter?” I’m not sure if Paul addresses this question or even makes a distinction. But it is a question that we ask.