Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don't Let Your Good Be Evil Spoken Of

Ike Whitson, a wise friend of mine, once wrote, "We can all find scriptures that will support our view if we are foolish enough to take the scripture out of context. You must be very careful that what you read really pertains to your situation." If we approach the scripture without the pure intent to search out what God is speaking, then we can come up with all sorts of heretic doctrines. It's imperative that we study and search out God's heart and intent in scripture. We have to ask, "Who wrote the scripture? Who was it written to?" We must study the full text of the letter and not just the verse itself.

It seems that one scripture I hear quoted more often lately than usual is Romans 14:16. It says, "Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil" - NKJV (Side note: One might notice that most people making reference to it do not even know what book of the Bible it is in). This verse is mentioned frequently in conversations where someone disagrees with someone else's convictions. For example, let's say Randy is a believer who doesn't eat pork because his convictions tell him not to. He thinks it is bad/evil. Randy often quotes this scripture to/about anyone who eats pork, trying to impose his convictions as "true and right for everyone." Randy proposes that anyone who is really a Christian should know better and act more wisely because people who don't believe it's ok to eat pork can "speak evil" of their "good."

Let's take a closer look at the context of this scripture.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church at Rome around the year 57AD. Chapter 14 is summarized as a set of principles of conscious for the weak and strong in faith. Let's break the chapter down a bit. My notes are in blue print.

Romans 14

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
Don't be loading up new/young believers with all of your personal convictions. They will fall in love with God and through His Word will discover their own convictions. Disputing and debating can really mess them up causing doubt to take root in their heart. It took me a long time to figure out that many of the convictions I had developed as a believer were based on traditions of church people and not scripture (AKA legalism).

For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
God will convict us about specific things in order to protect us from falling into sin. Some people are more susceptible to certain temptations than others. Overeating isn't much of a temptation for some, and others may need to steer clear of the buffets and find an accountability partner who only eats organic food. We draw a line of self-righteousness in the sand when we say that we are better than someone else because we aren't tempted with the same issue. Paul takes some time in the next few verses to say, don't be judgmental or mad that other people have freedom in things you are bound in.

Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Being fully persuaded is the key! As we read through verses 10, 11, & 12 we discover why!

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
We have to be persuaded in our own minds about our convictions because we will give an account before God for them! We will not be giving any account for the convictions of others. Often times when we are in a controversial situation (such as a church split) we want to judge everyone else's actions to justify our own. This is especially the issue if we have made decisions in response to circumstances rather than solely by the direction of God. We have to look at each situation as an opportunity for God to teach us, and stop making it about anyone else. We will give an account for how we respond.

13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
Paul recommends that we take the focus of our judgement away from whether others meet our conviction criteria, and place it on those who do not operate out of love and respect.

14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
No food is unclean? That's Paul's conviction. He also writes to the church at Corinth,"All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." (1 Cor. 10:23)Or another way of saying it, I can do anything I want, but not everything is beneficial to glorifying God or helping the saints grow.

15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Ok, now we're getting down to the nitty gritty. This is where we see the basis for our key verse (16) today. Let's say I believe it is good and fine to eat pork. If a fellow Christian doesn't believe it is right to eat pork, should I stop eating pork altogether in order to avoid offending them? It doesn't stop there. What if another fellow Christian believes they shouldn't cut their hair? Should I let mine grow out since I'm an "example" to them? If I do, then someone else will surely inform me that long hair is a sin (and that most of the movies about Jesus must be wrong since they portray him with lovely long locks of hair lol). It is a ridiculously impossible idea to believe that we can please everyone! Paul is making the point that it is how we treat others that matters. If a fellow Christian doesn't believe it is ok to eat pork, don't invite them over for dinner and try to force your personal convictions on them. The key is to deal with one another in love (charity).

16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
Maybe it could be said this way... Let not (the things you are persuaded are ok for you to do) be evil spoken of. If we fail to respect individual convictions and neglect love, we are evil. But if we can treat every person's convictions with honor, we can agree to disagree knowing that we all just want to do what is right in the sight of God.

17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense.
Paul says we should take a look at the bigger picture here... The Kingdom of God! Righteousness! Peace! Joy in the Holy Ghost! While the enemy has us debating about our personal convictions, there are people dying, slipping off into eternity without accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. There is too much at stake to be sidetracked! We must redeem the time.

21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
This is a great example Paul uses to drive the point home. Don't intentionally hurt your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you know someone is a vegetarian, don't invite them to a Brazilian meatfest! If they don't drink wine, don't push it on them. Perhaps they are a reformed alcoholic. The bottom line... Don't be offensive with your liberty, but walk in your liberty with love.

22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
There is happiness found in freedom from the bondage of legalsim. The use of verse 16 out of context is the root of legalism; thinking that all convictions should apply to all humanity, and emphasizing the letter of the law over the Spirit. God has made us wonderfully unique. We must be careful not to misuse our convictions for judgement and condemnation. Respect and love must supersede everything else, especially our personal preferences.

Don't let your actions become evil by walking in judgement. Respect and love one another so the Kingdom of God may be exposed to all humanity. Let the world see Jesus in us that they may be saved!

1 comment:

  1. Your personal convictions are good ones Joe. A certain truth is that it is always easier to view and judge another from our point of view then from another point of view, i.e. Jesus' point of view. It is also certain that we like judgment as long as we are on the giving and not receiving end. I have no clue why some like judgment better than grace, but many practice that attitude often and in some situations always. For me, grace and mercy are the keys to showing His love to others. Great job!