1. Choose by Faith
What I mean by extra-morality is what many others before me have called Christian liberty. All I'm saying is that there are certain things that the Lord does not specifically forbid in the Bible, and that each Christian must make a decision on these issues based upon Biblical standards.
The argument I took from Romans 14 (and especially verse 14), was that in these areas, there may not necessarily be a direct right or wrong. What is indicated by the Scriptures here is that each man is responsible with creating his own standards.
"5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.... 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.... 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.... 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.... 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
With this in mind, our responsibility is simple, we must pray about things like what media we should intake, whether dancing is appropriate, and what clothes we should wear. We must make decisions about these areas, not by convenience, but by faith. As Dr. David Jeremiah writes,
"Every believer should make sure their conscience does not condemn them and then act on what they believe, being responsible to make judgments about things that not specifically covered in Scripture. The center of the Christian life is faithfulness and love toward God - whether in obeying Scripture or seeking to apply scriptural principles to."
Now perhaps you would like to argue with the interpretation of Romans 14 that I here advocate. I admit that I myself have difficulty accepting it, but the more I read this chapter, the more I am convinced that this interpretation is correct.
Regardless, let's just take time to examine whether it matters whether you agree with me on the main issue. You see, all I'm asking for you to do is to specifically pray about areas where the Bible is silent and make a decision based on what would be the best for your relationship with the Lord and others.
I make this case because the standards that are made can vary from person to person and all still be correct. You take offense with that. Great. So let's just say that there is just one correct standard for these extra-moral concerns. How would you best determine that standard?
You would pray about it and make a decision of faith based on how certain things affect your relationships with the Lord and other Christians! Indeed, if you pay close attention to all the action steps I give you today, you will find that they all apply equally as much whether there is one proper extra-moral standard or whether there are multiple ones. So disagree with me if you want, but please consider taking these steps anyway.
2. Attitude towards Other Believers
All Christians are obligated to make decisions on these areas where the Bible is silent by faith and prayer. Now let's just assume that everyone has done that in their lives. This assumption is not just for the sake of this post. No, I think it would be wise in our everyday lives to give all Christians that benefit of the doubt. It is simply not Christ-like to assume that people have erred without having any basis and in this scenario, we will never have basis unless someone directly tells you that they don't have any basis for where they stand.
But where does that put us? There are bound to be disagreements. And when those disagreements come, the natural reaction is to think that your decisions are far superior to those of your fellow Christians. "Look at him! He really thinks it's necessary to live with those standards! Ha! Where did he get Scripture to support that view?" While your compatriot is over there thinking, "He watches that show! Does he not know that it is soooo worldly?"
You see, Paul makes it very clear that both sections of beliefs are not without fault in their judgment of the others. Christians start turning against other Christians because they have differing standards. Because they view the Lord's requirements in their lives to be a little bit different.
The Bible makes it clear that it is not the place or authority of Christians to judge other Christians. Only the Lord is truly able to evaluate the service of us as Christians. So who are we to take his place? As Romans 14 states,
"4 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.... 6 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.... 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. 10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. 13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more."
R.C. Sproul further iterates the argument of Scriptures when he says,
"Frequently in his epistles, the Apostle Paul goes to great lengths to describe what we call Christian liberty. In these matters God allows us freedom; he doesn't set down laws prohibiting something or commanding something. The apostle warns us against being judgmental toward our brothers, giving as an example in the Corinthian community the question about eating meat offered to idols. Paul says this had nothing to do with the kingdom of God. He says, 'Those of you who have scruples about it, don't judge those who don't' and vice versa. This is a case in which we just have to respect one another. In those admonitions, Paul uses as his basis this statement: 'We are not to be judging people for whom Christ died.' He reminds us that 'your brother or your sister belongs to Christ. God has forgiven them. Who are you to withhold forgiveness from someone whom God has forgiven?'"
Now I should clarify here that I am not saying you should just jump into a little box and just ignore the different standards among Christians in the world. Certainly, it cannot be a point of contention, but perhaps it would be necessary to point out real problems in a position.
You may remember that in the third post of the series, I highlighted the issue of condemnation in our day by linking this blog post. The article disrespectfully slanders fundamentalists based on the actions of a few (unsubstantiated as well, but that's not the point). Compare that tone and respectfulness to this blog post written by Doctor Jeff Ansbaugh, Pastor of Greater Rhode Island Baptist Temple.
They are both highlighting what they view as problems in the fundamentalist community, but the latter does so with love. What these two articles show us is that we need not sing kumbaya in order to suffice these Scriptural requirements, but our actions need to be guided from love and a mutual respect, and not a holier than thou condemnation.
As Pastor Jeff Ansbaugh tells us,
"When I first graduated from Bible college, I did not hold a King James position, and the reason is because I had met too many preachers who were King James nasty. Several years after I was in the ministry, I came upon a very gracious man at an ordination who had a King James position but held it with the right spirit... I asked if I could talk with him about textual matters, and he agreed. He did not put his hands around my throat, but rather put his arm around my shoulders. I changed my position through my talks with him. And that is because he used his position to bring us together rather than wedge us apart. We must believe that compassion is not compromise."
3. Conduct Towards other Believers
Being compassionate in our attitude towards other believers will produce some natural results in our conduct with them. The two things that Romans 14 shares with us to behave appropriately are likely more indicators that we have the proper respect level than anything else.
Regardless, we do see two main lessons from Romans 14 about how we are to treat other Christians when it comes to extra-moral standards.
First, we learn to not flaunt our views. This flaunting can go in both directions.
For instance, one with less strict extra-moral standards can easily flaunt and tempt his brother to err by his standard. This is what Paul would call a stumblingblock in your brother's way. Revisiting the example I used in the fourth post of this series, we find that you are a Doctor Who fan (a giant whovian!) and you are great friends with someone who believes that Christians shouldn't watch that show (or at least that he or she shouldn't).
It takes great strength to refrain from constantly telling him that he is missing out on so much by upholding his standards so well. But that is the Christian thing to do.
Then again, the converse can also happen. Your friend who also watches Doctor Who has a similar obligation not to flaunt himself as a better Christians simply because he believes that more is necessary to please the Lord when it comes to extra-moral concerns.
Romans 14 explains once more,
"3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.... 13 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. 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. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:... 21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. 22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
The second lesson that Romans 14 teaches us about the conduct towards other believers is to focus on those things that really matter. You see, as big of a deal as we would like to make these extra-moral concerns, they really aren't the most important issues in our Christian walk with the Lord.
No, what's really important are the issues of righteousness and peace. What we should focus on is the glory of God, instead of the peripheral views on issues of extra-moral concerns. Romans 14 says simply:
"6 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. 7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 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.... 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence."
I dare say that meat is not the only thing that doesn't destroy the work of God! Regardless, I'm sure we can all agree that our ability as Christians to reach the purpose of God's glory and witnessing to the lost are far more important than extra-moral concerns.
In conclusion, let me leave you with some words from Dr. David Jeremiah's commentary on Romans 14,
"God is pleased with the individual Christian because of Christ, not because of his or her views on peripheral matters. Christians are to have the same attitude, striving toward unity, not unnecessary dissension.... The believer's focus should be on the values of the kingdom of God, not worship styles or modes of dress. The Enemy does all he can to drive people toward division. The Spirit drives God's family toward unity."