SMARTALK - hope for today

Prioritizing Peace

August 08, 2022 Season 1 Episode 9
SMARTALK - hope for today
Prioritizing Peace
Show Notes Transcript

Prioritizing Peace: It's easy to fracture relationships, especially when you know you are in the right! We need to learn how to deal with differences, look beyond superficial issues and keep the bigger picture in mind, which is how Romans Chapter 14 verses 14 to 23 directs us. 
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Music: Achaidh Cheide - Celtic by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.



Prioritizing Peace     

Introduction: Today we are talking about those moments when you just know you are in the right! Spouse says- you didn’t do xyz, but you did! Parents get on your back, accusations fly about online gaming, when you were (for once) actually doing your homework- oh how you sore on a flight of self-Righteousness - I am right – and you become unbearable for the next 5 mins! 

The words of our reading today were for a church that split down ethnic lines. And they needed peace. Some were in the right and they weren’t taking any prisoners. Possibly unbearably right! And Paul the great Apostle even says here that he is on the same side of the argument! Yet he now says - if you do your thing, you will be in the wrong! Go figure, how does that work?! Because this means that doing the right thing in life can be harder than normal.  And it’s all because other people are in the equation too, not just you and your best life ever! 

Think of life in a sheep pen - stronger sheep- easy to trample on weaker ones – they might not mean to but it’s just that they are bigger and stronger and so faster and heavier. They can throw more weight around. And even though they are in the same flock, the weaker sheep can easily get bruised. This is a word to the strong sheep- got a stronger grip than others on the freedom Jesus brings into our lives.  

1.     Dealing with Differences: 

The big thing was the strong sheep would eat anything v.14- this was revolutionary to hear from a Jew like Paul to other Jews who were now fellow believers in Jesus Christ. It cut against the Jewish dietary laws in Lev.11. eg. 12 Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you. Imagine a table full of your favorite foods- I remember feasting on a seafood plater in Ullapool, or eating shrimp and blood pudding and bacon- but Paul would never pull out a lunch box like that in Rome with fellow Jews. It would be too much. He knew he was free to eat bacon and enjoy it and give thanks to God for it. But he’d prefer to build up his brothers and not horrify them- so bacon was out the window when eating a meal with them. Though when they weren’t looking…! 

The Gentiles didn’t have to follow Lev.11 but equally, he was saying, leave your Jewish brothers and sisters alone if they want to because in the end of the day food didn’t matter for salvation. Christ had died for all peoples - Col.3 11 (in the Church) there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  Love means- bear all things endure all things, hope all things v.15. i.e. unity over bacon rolls!

Consider the Consequences: Distress- to cause pain. Destroy = spiritual ruin (but see Rom.8) do not be separated from Christ's love) = peer pressure- runs over their conscience – destroys them, in the sense of pushing the Jewish believers right out of THE church altogether! Not simply go to the next one down the street! Ask yourself, do I do anything that might make a fellow Christian feel uncomfortable, even if you know it’s OK?

Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil v.16. Don’t be misunderstood. Remember a pastor who went to a church in some remote islands. The first thing he did was to throw his golf bag in the wardrobe and said, that’s the end of that! Another- never went to soccer matches. Because they were dealing with churches that were weak on liberty and the implications of the Gospel for freedom. And it would have confused believers there, it would have caused division, and none of that is worth it- so golf or unity- go figure. The key idea here to learning how to do the right thing when it’s hard, is to ask the question- could my freedom cause a weaker brother or sister confusion? Just care enough to ask that question…e.g, Charismatic gifts/ style of worship/ science and faith, A-mil/post-Mil, let alone political differences: Prioritize peace. 

2. Look Beyond Externals: 

By Seeing beyond the externals: v.17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking: From a Garden or the roadside, what is visible to a passer-by inside a home is very limited. None of this can change you at the deepest level- Col.2, why, as though you still belonged to the world (human religions), do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. So many religions hit you in the gut- don’t eat this or that! But doesn’t change you- recent examples of well-known Indian gurus involved in sexual abuse. Christians can fall into focussing on the externals while inside there’s a host of secret sins. This is why I have a strong aversion to religion of any kind: promises much, delivers a lot less, and often cloaks horror stories of abuse, like lifting a stone in a garden and watching the beasties scuttle away from the light. 

Swinging Between Extremes: Now if someone taught dietary practices as steps towards salvation - Paul would chase them out of the church. But when weaker believers practice it as discipleship, then you have to bear with them patiently. Yet the church often swings between extremes time and again- too strict or too loose. All grace and freedom, to being all legalistic. We have been in an age of cheap grace- so watch out now as especially young believers overreact to that and swing to the other extreme! Prioritize peace. 

3. See the Bigger Picture V.17: three things inside your house. Some think too much about food and drink, don’t make the same mistake- keep your eye on something deeper. The Bigger Picture: Kingdom of God- this is its only mention in this letter- refers back to Jesus’ teaching. Three signs of a healthy church (as well as our own souls) should reflect: like 3 Harbour Lights line up when you are staying on the right track: 

-        Righteous - New Living Translation - a life of goodness compared to bacon! This is about an ethical Righteousness rather than a forensic one which he has already covered well in this letter. 

-        Peace – compared to bacon! The promise of universal peace with Christ’s kingdom, peace with God and peace in the heart and peace between believers. Peace is the primary result of justification (5:1) and of the presence of the Spirit (8:6). Paul’s goal is to produce peace in the midst of the conflict (v. 19 below[1]

-        Joy in the Holy Spirit- compared to bacon! No contest three times over! Focus on the one- the Holy Spirit alone that can turn the destructive conflict around so that righteous behavior will predominate[2] the HS will give the strong beleivers grace to put aside their rights for the greater unity of the church. He will fill them with joy that is greater than bacon rolls! i.e. what we will miss out on (like drinking wine) is nothing compared to knowing you are loved by God. 

-        Then: work hard at accepting them. This is how the strong “accept” the weaker Christians. The word “accept,” proslambano, means more than simply to bear with. A better translation would be to “welcome,” for the word means to receive someone into one’s circle and into one’s love. (Tim Keller.)  Much easier to help weaker believers grow stronger when you take time with them. Then they can see that freedom in Christ is not compromised, but gratitude to Christ. Then they may become stronger. Why would we leave them as weak? 

Conclusion: Strong sheep aren’t to be bullies, but protective rams that allow the lambs to grow into strong sheep. The strong just need to be patient and prioritize peace amongst the people of God. Are you weak, or strong? Then how will you contribute to the peace of God’s kingdom and the joy of the Holy Spirit amongst us? 

[1] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 370.
[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 370.