Our world is increasingly polarized and it is easy for us to judge others who don’t believe what we do politically, theologically or in how they choose to live their lives. I remember a time when my kids were teenagers and they announced to us that their friends' parents believed that we were bad parents because of how we raised the boys and what we allowed them to do. In fact, we can find many reasons to judge one another within the body of Christ. Even what a speaker wears on the platform can become a subject of judgement and public comment.
The tendency to judge others for their convictions or lifestyle choices is nothing new. It was happening in the church in Rome and Paul devoted considerable attention to this topic in Romans 14 and 15. The controversy was over whether people could eat food offered to idols as the pagans regularly did, how one practiced the sabbath, and other issues where people’s convictions differed.
Paul counseled the believers in Rome to extend to one another space and grace. Space to make decisions based on their conscience in areas of life where there is no obvious right or wrong, and grace to resist the temptation to judge or look down on others for choices they make. Paul reminded the Romans of three things in this regard.
First, that we all make choices that we believe honor God, so why would we judge one another? “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:7-8
Second, we will give an account for the choices we make to God one day. It is not our place to judge others but to ensure we are living in a way that pleases God. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” Romans 14:9-13
Third, Paul uses the example of Christ, who accepts us, to encourage us to accept one another. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7.
There is a wonderful beauty in the church when we are able to encourage one another, accept one another, and give the space and grace that Jesus gives to us. The world has enough divisiveness and we are called to unity, peace, grace and patience with one another. That is a congregation that is inviting and loving.
As we enter a divisive campaign season, argue over whether one's church should meet in person, navigate the various views on Covid, space and grace are desperately in need. We cannot control what others do but we can control our own attitudes.