6 May 2021Romans 14:7-12
...whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (v.8)
These verses in Romans 14 make best sense in the context of earlier verses in the chapter.
Verses 7-9 Drawing on his own experience, Paul was convinced that becoming a Christian involved a radical conversion – enabled by God’s grace – from self-centredness and self-importance to living faithfully in the service of the ever-living Jesus. Jesus has earned the right to guide and direct believers’ hearts, in their life and in their death. He humbly shared human existence and liberated both life and death from the corruptions and fear caused by the stranglehold of sin. Jesus, dead and risen, now rules over a believer’s life and death. But the ever-gracious and gentle Lord Jesus nurtures human freedom and maturity: he does not dictate every minute detail of a believer’s life and service.
Verses 10-12 Christians are given different degrees of faith; they perceive differently how to ‘live for Jesus, their Lord’. So they make diverse and contradictory choices on many practical matters. This leads to conflicts about whether or not particular lifestyles can defy the world’s norms in God’s name or are an opening for corruption of the Church. How then are Christians to live together as one family in tolerable peace and harmony? Certainly not by forming groups of the like-minded, each of whom claims to be right. The weak in faith must not judge the strong in faith; and the strong must not despise the weak. That would certainly mean that the old arrogance was seeping into the Church.
The truth is that it is the prerogative of God alone (through Jesus) to adjudicate on the choices each believer makes. All will have to stand before God’s tribunal (as Isaiah 45.23, cited in verse 11, reveals), bow before the one and only judge and acknowledge God’s glory. Each believer will be accountable to God for their choices.
- The Church today is faced with many issues that deeply divide congregations including race, gender identity, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, sexism and pacifism. Some churches are afraid to discuss these issues lest they create ill-feelings. What can you contribute to encourage conversations, to enable friendships to be sustained, and to create mutual respect?