Saturday, July 20, 2013

rights and relationships

Good afternoon friends,
It is certainly a beautiful day; I hope you're taking some time outside to enjoy it. Today's reading continues Paul's discussion on holding different opinions in the same community. He's talking specifically about food, which for many people was an expression of religion, but his point is much broader. We can believe different things about matters that aren't essential. That means, if you believe it's OK to eat any kind of food and you give thanks to God for it, that's fine. If you feel like you shouldn't eat some food, either because it represents another religion or for whatever reason, you shouldn't eat it. Even though it doesn't hurt God to eat it, if you believe it is wrong, you're going against your conscience and sinning if you eat it.

The other part of that freedom we have in Christ, and I think this is an interesting biblical idea when we think about things like gun control or free speech, is that love for our neighbor sometimes asks us to put our own rights aside. Paul says it's fine to eat whatever we want because all things are clean, at the same time, if eating something that other people might connect with idolatry risks leading them astray, the most loving thing could be not to eat it for the sake of the other person. We have great freedom in our faith and in our nation, but the most responsible and loving use of that freedom sometimes means accepting restrictions on what we have a right to for the sake of other people. In Christianity, love is the most important thing.

God bless,

Romans 14:13-23
13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another. 14I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16So do not let your good be spoken of as evil.

17For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. 19Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. 20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; 21it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.

22The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. 23But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

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