Yikes! More relational conflict. I wonder if the church in Rome was named “The Church of Broken Relationships and Grumpy People?” First, acceptance of one another came to a halt over the issue of eating meat or vegetables only (Romans 14:1-3). Then there were two more conflicting and judgemental camps in the church over the issue of is one day holier than another or are they all pretty much the same (Romans 14:5-12)?
But there were still more accusatory factions. What other divisive and opinionated issue could make the church such a warm and welcoming place (sarcasm)? One practice – drinking wine (Romans 14:15,21).
So how did Paul, writing by the Spirit of God address this issue? The same way he did with the first two divisive opinions and practices; he reminded them of the gospel and how God had welcomed each of them into His family. Their welcome was not based on their doings or not doings, but on their faith. “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). And Paul adds that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy,” where we “pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:17,19).
Just this – we don’t resolve our relational splits simply by pragmatics, convincing arguments, deciding to be tolerant, attaching labels, or doing what is right in our own eyes. The Roman church tried all of these. And so do we, getting the same results – critical spirits, unattractive divisions, wounded people and a very unsafe community.
We pursue peace and upbuilding by living out the gospel we have experienced. The solution is always the gospel. Anything less than a gospel based solution simply buries the issues alive. When we don’t go to the gospel, could it be that we have not experienced the gospel being the solution in our lives? When there is only one solution to something and we find it, we’ll use it over and over. And we will tell others.
The gospel always makes a safe community. A place where I am loved just as I am. And a place where I can grow and mature.
Back with you next Thursday.