Thursday, September 14, 2017

Romans 14:1-12 Unity is not Uniformity


KEY TEXT: Romans 14:5-12 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

KEY THOT: Christians since the Day of Pentecost are united by one core confession, viz., "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is the core of the Gospel: "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). And on this foundational truth, we are saved: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). Every other views and practices about personal piety beyond this core confession are non-essentials (adiaphora). And since the Day of Pentecost, there has been no 100% agreement on other aspects of the practices of our faith--viz., worship, church organization, ministry, and personal piety. 

Paul highlights the different opinions of personal piety in his times defined by what Christians can or cannot eat and what days are considered sacred:
  • Romans 14:5-6 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Paul's advice for unity of church is based on two key principles:
(1) accept that there will always be different preferences for personal piety
(2) allow for different preferences in personal piety

Unity is not uniformity: we should not impose our personal preferences on others in the name of unity, for that is confusing unity of the Spirit with uniformity of human practices. Instead, we should accept and allow for different paths to personal piety and not judge or condemn those who have different preferences: "The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God."  As long as we are not insisting on a particular preference to exalt self or to boost the ego but to honour God, we should have room for different preferences and practices.

May God grant us the same grace He has granted us when He empowers us with differing gifts to serve different needs. Let's accept and allow for differences, for unity is not uniformity. To insist on "my way or the high way" violates the principle of unity which is based on our core faith in Jesus Christ crucified.

Abba-Father, forgive our small-mindedness. Help us accept that there will be different paths to personal piety and allow for them to be expressed in Your church so that we may serve the world more effectively. Amen.

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