Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Disputable Matters 7/31/2013
"I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love." Romans 14:14-15
The church at Rome was one that had a very interesting history and make-up. Initially it consisted almost solely of Jewish Christians, however, this changed when the Jews were kicked out of Rome leaving Gentile believers as the members of the church. Eventually, the Jewish Christians were allowed to return. This presented a number of problems in that there were disputes among the two groups regarding a number of things, not the least of which was what type of food could legally be eaten. The Gentiles who had never really had any prohibition on types of food they could eat thought that it was ok to eat anything, included meat sacrificed to idols. The Jews had problems with certain types of food because of the prohibition against eating anything unclean or that had been sacrificed to idols. For this reason, those chose the vegetarian lifestyle at that time and place.
It is not unusual for me to get emails from people who find me on our congregation's website that want to engage in debates about what should and should not be done in worship or a worship facility. Most of these things have nothing to do with the essentials of the Christian faith. Some want to debate about whether we should support ministries that are also supported by other denominations such as the local food pantry. Some say that weddings and funerals should not be performed in the sanctuary and that it should be reserved solely for worship service. Still others feel that we should not have a kitchen facility anywhere in the building.
Beloved, these are what are called disputable matters. There is nowhere in scripture that addresses these issues specifically. Scriptures can certainly be pointed out that tell us that we should be kind to all men as we have the opportunity (food pantry), that Jesus performed his first miracle at wedding (though it does not say that it was in a church building) and that the first services were held in homes (which undoubtedly had a kitchen equivalent). This is all magnified when we would dispute with one another within the congregation over personal differences like tattoos, piercings, suits and whether women should wear pants, hats or makeup.
The point of the love of Christ is to bring people together, not to divide over non-essentials. Tragically, there are thousands of denominations today because everyone wants to have it their own way and wants to be separate from those who do not agree with them. Let us endeavor not to let our liberty cause us to judge others who may have a different opinion, method or means of expression their love and worship. Paul said, "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God" Romans 14:10-11.