Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Extra-Morality 4: Stumblingblock in the Way

We have thus far in this series seen a few reasons why we should not condemn someone because of their choices on extra-moral concerns. However, simply not condemning is hardly the easiest lesson to apply in our everyday lives as it is rather vague and abstract.

Starting today, we will be seeing in more detail what this course of action entails by seeing what the Lord would have us do. And yes, the information for how we should live our lives also comes from Romans 14.

Let us remember simply that we have come to the conclusion that there are some issues that are not moral or immoral, but are simply issues where each Christian has to decide for himself where he stands. The Lord gives strong evidence in Romans 14 that he doesn't care what decision is made, so long as it is made by faith.

So then in these situations (like dancing, cultural entertainment, and modesty), there will be different beliefs among Christians about what is acceptable and what is not. Baptists may think that dancing is entirely forbidden; Presbyterians may find that dancing is entirely permissible. The same can be said on other issues of extra-moral concerns. So how exactly are we supposed to work as a unified body of Christ in this manner?

I suppose some would say it is possible for us to simply each break apart into separate denominations and keep our different beliefs on extramoral concerns separate. But this is simply not a good idea.

In the first place, choosing a denomination should be based on something more consequential than these issues. We have different denominations so that we can regularly meet with people who think similarly on issues like predestination, baptism, and other doctrinal issues, and not because the atmosphere of extra-moral choices make us comfortable.

Additionally though, you will be hard-pressed to find a group of people who agree exactly as you do on these issues in the first place. Different people are bound to make different decisions even within the same family, or same denomination.

For instance, I am a Baptist. As such, I should completely condemn dancing and never, ever participate (this is what the stereotype says anyway). Yet this very night, I am greatly looking forward to square dancing. Most in my church would probably look down on such actions as ungodly. But I find it to just be another way of fellowship with other believers.

But even if it were feasible to break into denominations because of extra-moral concerns, it would not solve the problem of divisions. We shouldn't just completely isolate ourselves into different denominations. Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with breaking into different denominations for regular church services, but there is also nothing wrong with fellowshipping and serving with those from different denominations from time to time.  The Lord doesn't change whether He loves you based on your denomination, so why would we never interact with those we disagree with on any issue?

So we know that we will have to interact with Christians with differing extra-moral concerns on a normal basis. How exactly should we behave? It really comes down to respecting opposing viewpoints. Maybe someone won't watch Doctor Who while you absolutely can't get enough. There is nothing wrong with either position (as long as it was made by faith), so what are you to do?

Romans 14:13-16 provides us with our answer,
"Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. 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. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of."

Here Paul continues with his example of meat he started early in the chapter. Remember, if someone decides to avoid certain areas by faith, then it becomes a sin for him to do such things.

In this example, when someone has decided the Lord doesn't want them to eat meat, then it would be a sin for them to eat meat. In this verse, you are being admonished against tempting your brother with meat that you can eat without guilt that he cannot.

Back to our more modern example, if someone believes that watching Doctor Who would be problematic in their relationship with the Lord, then by all means don't discuss the show in front of him. Don't consistently tell him how amazing the show is, how much he's missing out. Be considerate of his position and don't tempt him to compromise his convictions! Just because they don't line with yours doesn't change his right to have them.

The same can be said for every issue of extra-moral concerns. We must not put a stumblingblock in the way of our brothers with stricter extra-moral concerns then we have. We must not tempt them into erring by discussing or doing those things in their presence.

It's just like how we wouldn't turn on a movie in the presence of a friend who is not allowed to watch it. We simply should not make it difficult for other Christians to stay committed to the Lord.

But those who have stricter extra-moral concerns have a duty as well. It can be so easy to fall into the trap that because you have these stricter beliefs that you are better than your friends. This pride though is sinful. You cannot think that your extra-moral standards make you better than another. They don't. Do not speak evil of the good of your fellow Christians because their extra-moral standards are more lenient.

Both of these duties will naturally follow from mutual respect. Even if you can't come to respect the extra-moral choices of another, learn to respect him as a person, as a servant of the Lord. When you do so, you should find yourself condemning his choices less and less.

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