How Not To Win Friends And Influence People! It's easy for people to fall out over issues that shouldn't divide them. Romans Chapter 14 verses 1 to 13 guides us in how to navigate differences and still accept one another.
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Rom.14: 1-13 Title: How not to win friends and influence people
Introduction: the church is like a …fill in the blank…country club? Hospital, training camp? Closer to the truth. Sometimes even though we know that, it’s more like a playpark. Trying to get the kids to talk to other kids in the playpark! Challenge at times. But the church is about the acceptance of others that can be so different from one another. But imagine them falling out and fighting each other in public! Playpark faith: what does it look like if we pass judgement all the time- like a fight in a playpark? It’s like being on the see-saw- The teeter-totter of judgmentalism or contempt.
Context: Picnic in the Park: Jew/Gentile in Rome- shared meals and shared days of worship were the playground ready for disputes for the Jews had very strict rules on both food and holy days. The Gentiles usually had neither. One person’s faith allowed them to eat only veggies, the other was into BBQ – eat anything- I definitely want to be in that category!
Days in the Park- some are into Christmas some aren’t. What about Sunday as Sabbath? If people try to keep it to get in as a work’s Righteousness, then there is a problem. But is the Sabbath really in the area of unimportant- it’s the fourth commandment? Legalistic abuses can push people away from the inherent good and wisdom behind the commandment - goes back before the ten commandments- Creation- Gen.1. compare to Ex.20, For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. He did that before Moses received the ten commandments! Rest and worship. Protect it because you need it, and the church needs you here every Sunday morning you can be.
1. Fights in the Playpark: vs.1-3
- Good Christians often fall out, over needless differences. 1b dialogismoi- matters of conscience: Lots of possible playpark bullies- cultural ones dragged into the church - covid, injections, masks, democrat, republican, guns, health care, tax, big/small government, environmentalism, wokeness and that’s before you get too theological issues!
- The cone of First Order of importance - small at the top, wide at the bottom- e.g. trinity- all the way down to the colour of the carpet. Can’t distinguish between major issues and minor ones, between matters of preference and principles. Instead, it should be two different boxes. Often cloak preferences with biblical authority while the Bible may often be silent on such matters. In which case- second box- minor.
- So how do you tell which box to put something in? Difference test – are you being gripped by the Gospel…v.3 weak= losing your hold on the Gospel- it’s not do’s and don’ts – weak grasp of the Gospel- justification by faith means that eating meat or keeping holy days is irrelevant! But holding onto that teaching is like holding a bar of soap in the shower, it can keep escaping your grip! So we can be weak in living out the Gospel. Yet paradoxically it makes for some of the most ardent activists in the church. Strong faith in Christ but weak in liberty yet that can often do great things for Christ. Therefore…
- Beware of being tempted to look down on their weaker and often more legalistic brethren. Sometimes when someone is first converted she or he needs a clear break with the past. Then you grow more discerning with experience.
2. Stopping the Fighting: 4-9
- Focus on Christ: any bad behaviour in the playground of the church doesn’t say much about Jesus: didn’t he die to bring us together? So not only does fighting cause divisions it denigrates the suffering of Christ, unpicking everything he seeks to build. Like one of the kids has been given a costly bike and the one he is arguing with throws it down a riverbank onto some rocks out of spite. Insults the owner and the one who bought him the bike!
- Change the scenario- adults in an office- two department heads, then another boss walks in from the company that rents a unit across the corridor and starts berating your employees! Insane- they don’t belong to him! – 4a- Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. v.4 judge = condemnation and denunciation. But every believer in the church is precious twice over: their humanity and their value to Christ - bought with his precious blood. They belong to him. Don’t put yourself in Jesus’ sandals! (this is not talking about the context of church discipline - that is a duty for church leaders to protect the flock, even from themselves)
- Think it Through:
- Depth: Fully convinced v.5 - One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. think it through- mindless traditions- we’ve always done this! No- think it through - does it add to the overall goal of the church – make disciples who make disciples in turn? The church is an old institution in the West- easy to just do things because they’ve always been done. But even if only 20 years old- traditions quickly build. Danger if weak copy strong without understanding.
- Width: whole of life v.7 -8 we belong to the Lord (Note the x3 emphasis On Jesus): life and death- way of summing up everything in our lives. No area is off limits- especially work, recreation, and family- all essential parts of discipleship. Because Christ died to buy each one of us, we belong to him. He rose from the dead to make this a reality, so we need to treat each other in the light of that cosmic moment that forged their relationship to Christ and instead see that we are equally valued by Christ.
3. Removing Obstacles 10-12
- Behave like brothers, because you are: Good brothers that is! 10a – instead- see each other as brothers. For you too are forged into Christ because of his death and his resurrection. You are one family!
- Leave the Call to God: 10b-13- Another reason- all going to the judgment throne- police visit the park. Sort out the mess about who said what to who, who broke the bike etc. can’t play at being the judge – only God sits there. He alone reads the heart and knows their past experiences.
- Removing obstacles in the Playpark: V.13 Without the Day of Judgement in our thinking we will lack a very real tool in how to live with one another when we are so different. Knowing that we will be held accountable very soon for every word, action and inaction will constrain our excesses.
Conclusion: Don’t make the church look like a playpark. Get off the teeter-totter: Who have you looked down upon? Who have you judged? Who alone can make the call?