As Christians we are each different. We are quite unique. We all have varying experiences, histories, maturity, personalities, gifts, and talents that make up who we are. But the most important aspect we need to remember about one another is that each of us was called by the LORD, chosen by Him, and is loved by Him.
In our local bodies we will find people who because of various reasons are susceptible to certain strongholds. One brother cannot watch movies with any sexual content, he considers it sinful and those films call to his flesh; he abstains from all movies rated PG-13 and above. Yet for another brother he has no problems seeing those movies and enjoys them. One sister feels that drinking alcohol at all is detrimental to walking in the Spirit, while another enjoys a glass of wine with dinner each night and has no problems with alcohol.
We’re all different. Walking in the Spirit with Jesus is not about things like drinking or refraining from drink, it is about a transformative relationship with Almighty God our Creator. But too often we take our eyes off Jesus and place them on one another, judging each other for our personal choices, abstentions, or leniencies. Boy, the adversary loves it when we argue over silly things like that, especially when one of the participants of the quarrelling is a new or less mature Christian. Verses 1-6 read,
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 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. 6 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.
I know a beautiful woman of God who fasts every Sabbath Day. She honors the Lord each Friday evening through Saturday evening by refraining from food and spending hours in prayer. I know another amazing woman of God who celebrates the Sabbath on Sundays by making those days a special holiday full of good meals, family time, and prayer and worship. A third friend, celebrates every day as the Sabbath and doesn’t believe in designating only one day each week to be holy. All three of these women do what they do to honor God. Each one is glorifying and exalting the Lord, celebrating Jesus Christ and living out the Holy Spirit in her unique way.
What a waste of time it would be for the friend who fasts on the Sabbath to convince the friend who celebrates every day as the Sabbath that she is wrong and vice versa. The only result of that contention would be disunity, ill-feelings, guilt, and possibly temptation to indulge the flesh in any number of ways. Who are we to pass judgement on one another’s service to the Lord? We are in this together! One body, one Spirit and one mission. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 reminds us that our diversity does not have to separate us from one another. In fact our diversity works to unite us further.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
We are not walking alone. The Lord gave us to one another. We need to respect God’s Lordship. We need to trust that God can and does save, that He will conform each of us to His image, and that He is not fooled by the deceivers among us. Verses 7-12 say,
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For 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.9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 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; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
We are not alone. We have a responsibility to one another and in love we want the best for each other. If I know that my brother finds rated R movies tempt him to gratify the flesh, I will not see those films with him, talk about them with him, or try to convince him that it isn’t sinful. What is sinful for him, is not the same as what is sinful for me. My strengths and weaknesses are different than his. For me to talk about the latest Robert Rodriguez movie around a brother who grew up around violence and is vulnerable to those images would be to hurt his walk with Jesus. Where is the love in that? Verses 13-15 reads,
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
I enjoy hard driving rock music. But some of my brothers and sisters in Christ consider the music I listen to as sinful. One brother finds when he listens to certain music it changes his mood and takes his focus off Jesus. That music doesn’t have that effect on me. Quite the opposite, that music allows me to express a passion for God, His ministry, and His love in various ways and connects me to Christians in a way that traditional Christian music does not. I have seen the good work this music has played in lives of young people who would never have listened to something more mainstream. My music choice is not better than my friend’s, it is different. My choice helps leads me to worship God, his choice leads him to worship God. Both choices are good. Fighting over it is futile. Verses 16-19 read,
So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Christianity has nothing to do with whether we worship with hymns or modern music or no music. It has nothing to do with whether we drink wine or juice, cola or water. Christianity is about our relationship with the Lord, one another, and the world. My walk with God, my faith is between me and God and it will affect the people around me. If I live in the Spirit, you will be able to see the results of that in the way I live. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us how a Spirit-filled person looks.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
There are no dos and don’ts in there. It doesn’t say the fruit of the Spirit is veganism, carnivorous diets, abstaining, indulging, shouting, or whispering. The dos and donts come in the description of love we read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.
The dos and don’ts there are not a list of rules but a description of an attitude, a description of Jesus and how our transformation will make us behave. It doesn’t say, love doesn’t listen to an upbeat, it reads “love does not insist on its own way.” If I trust God to be God for me, shouldn’t I also trust Him to be God for you? What will my insistence that my way is the right way do to my sister who feels that eating pork is sinful? God’s taking care of her transformation, and He is taking care of mine. What if instead of wasting time arguing over whether or not we can add bacon to a sandwich, I make us both a tomato and lettuce sandwich or we pray for one another, or I spend time getting to know her? If I try and coerce her to do something she considers a sin, I will hurt her. I will present her with a false image of God, cause her pain, guilt, and shame, and lead her away from the Lord rather than build her up and grow closer to Him. Verses 20-23 read,
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
God is doing a good work in you, and He is doing a good work in your brothers and sisters (Philippians 1:6). Who are we to doubt His ability to save them? We are all different, beautifully unique and woven together into a magnificent tapestry which paints a picture of The Lord to the world. Let’s show them His awesome love, amazing strength, and perfect grace instead of our own agendas, feelings, and liabilities.