Summary: I am firmly convinced that more than a timeless letter about the gospel of Christ, Paul wrote Romans as an effort to unify a church on its way toward division. Romans 14 is the climax of that effort.
Proclaiming His Majesty
In Pursuit of Peace
The other night at worship, my son, John Austin, asked Sheryl, "Mom, why does everybody call daddy, Brother Mitchell?" As Sheryl did her best to explain to him how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and that we are all God’s children, John Austin’s brain was working. When she was through explaining he said, "Boy, God sure has a lot of children doesn’t he? But where is his wife?" Sheryl explained that God has no wife to which he replied, "You now if God had a wife I bet he could have created the earth in three days!"
John Austin’s simple yet profound observation is something we often forget; God sure has a lot of children! We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and just as a parent is proud of their children, God is just as proud of all of his.
I am firmly convinced that more than a timeless letter about the gospel of Christ, Paul wrote Romans as an effort to unify a church on its way toward division. Romans 14 is the climax of that effort.
What Paul wrote to the church at Rome during the first century is much needed for the church of the 21st Century. Too often, we are guilty of just giving lip service to brotherly love. Sure, we do a good job of caring for those outside the church who need help; we show our love and compassion without hesitation. However, when it comes to our brothers and sisters, we are often too quick to judge and too slow to forgive. Our love needs to grow as well as our understanding of God’s desire for us to be unified. Where in the bible do we read of Jesus saying that it is acceptable to fracture the fellowship of the church over the opinions of man or because "I have been a member of this congregation a lot longer than they have!"
Receive your Brother (Romans 14:1-6)
Because we are family, but more than that, God’s family, we are stuck with one another for eternity, bound as brothers and sisters. When differences arise, we have no choice but to work out those differences. We cannot leave, where can we go? We are family!
Paul uses the same idea here by admonishing us to receive the brother who is weak in faith. Why? First, he is a brother and last but certainly not least, God has accepted him. "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:3-4).
Paul, through the Holy Spirit, says that we should receive our brother, "but not to disputes over doubtful things." The NIV calls these "disputable matters." I think the NRSV translates this verse the best when it says, " Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions." To put it plainly, the weak brother should be received, opinions and all. Although the brother is received, it should be done in a way as to not make his differing opinion the rule of the congregation. Neither should he be received to pressure this brother to change his opinion. Just receive him, plain and simple.