This should come as no surprise. Indeed, in Romans 14, God confronts this very issue, albeit with different examples. Here Paul talks to the Church and discusses those issues of eating meat. His discussion of these examples culminates in our theme verse, Romans 14:14,
"I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean."
As I mentioned last week, this revelation is incredibly scary out of context. Thus, I would like to clarify how it deals with extra-moral concerns this week by examining the context in full.
This conclusion is reached after Paul exhorts us to not condemn those who live by different standards than we do. Now I want to make it clear right now that this verse should not be used to justify sin. It must not be used as a guise to explain away things which the Bible clearly says are immoral. Remember that this applies only to that which the Bible doesn't condemn.
What it is saying is that just because someone dresses differently than you, or listens to all sorts of music, doesn't mean their relationship with the Lord is any weaker than yours. The Bible has nothing concrete to say about these issues.
But there is nothing wrong with holding yourself to a higher standard than what the Bible explicitly provides, nor is there anything wrong with finding such a high standard unnecessary. But there is something wrong when you decide to condemn others because their standards differ from you.
After all, it is up to the Lord to decide whose standards are acceptable and whose are not. Indeed, for all you know, both your standard and the opposing standard could be acceptable to God.
In fact, in Romans 14:1-4, we hear this argument,
“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth he can eat all things: another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not, and let not him that which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”
What business do we have judging a servant of the Lord simply because they hold themselves to a different standard than we do? It is God's place, as it says, "God hath received Him."
Furthermore, the Lord goes on to say in verses 5-8,
“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.”I think we all need to remember that just because we disagree with someone on how to serve God, doesn’t mean both parties are not still serving God.
To take this into more understandable terms, say you and I are running a business. We are struggling and we both want to increase revenues. You want to put an advertisement for our service, while I think we need to concentrate on creating a better product. We disagree about how to get there, but we both want to increase the number of our clients.
Similarly, just because we disagree on how we can best glorify the Lord, we must realize that it is entirely possible for both parties to be pursuing the same end. Too often, one will look down on these different standards as being wrong, and looking at stories where people "escape from legalism," or areas where the "world has corrupted Christianity" without thinking that both could still be glorifying the Lord.
Somewhere along the way we have become convinced that we are the end all of what standards are acceptable. But this is not the case. The Lord is the judge of such things, and He finds that there are many areas where as long as we act by faith, the specific standards we apply are miniscule in our ability to glorify Him. We must be willing to accept the Lord's position on this issue; failure in this area makes us so quick to sin by condemning those around us for just about anything.