Romans 14:5-6. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
I don’t know that there is a more explicit statement of our liberty in Christ than this one – Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
You would never have heard Moses say something like this. The Law would not allow it. Under the Old Covenant your behaviors and your opinions about those behaviors were decided for you. But not so in Christ. We are free to decide for ourselves how to best honor Christ.
Now I know some of you are already nervous from that statement. “We can’t decide things for ourselves, we would just sin all the time if we did that.” But this is not what union with Christ teaches us. Union with Christ says that we have the mind of Christ, therefore we can trust our own minds.
Let that sink in…
Yes, we are each a king in the realm of our own mind (William Newell), but we are also bounded by the mind of Christ. Liberty bounded by love.
But now this is where Romans 14:5 gets interesting. Yes, liberty bounded by love, but also love increased by liberty.
Rome was a church full of Weak and Strong Christians (go back and read the last couple blogs for more background). The Weak abstained from eating meat, the Strong ate the meat without a problem. The Weak esteemed one day better than another, while the Strong esteemed all days alike.
In other words, they didn’t agree on matters of practice. Not gospel matters. Non-gospel matters. They all agreed that the law didn’t save them, that Jesus died and rose again for the salvation of sins, that salvation was by grace through faith. They disagreed on the outworking of that faith. For some it was faith to eat, and for others it was faith to not eat. For some it was faith to rest on the Sabbath, for others it was faith to work on the Sabbath. These different opinions led to division, rejection, judgment, and even despising one another (12:1-4). So what’s the solution for this church? For your church?
It would seem that the solution would be to lessen liberty. To reduce freedom. To compromise.
But this is not what Paul says. He tells us to be fully convinced in our own mind. Not try to persuade each other of your opinion. Not try to convert each other to your side. Not try to come up with a middle ground of behavior.
The solution is actually the opposite – dig into your convictions, be fully convinced, and then do it! Go hard in honor to the Lord. Eat in honor to the Lord. Or don’t eat in honor to the Lord. Observe the day in honor to the Lord, or don’t, in honor to the Lord. But be convinced.
How are we convinced about our expressions of faith? Here are three test questions: 1) Is it sinful – forbidden by Christ or scripture? 2) Can you do it in honor to the Lord, from his love and grace? 3) Can you do it, or not do it, and give thanks to God at the same time?
Things like sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6) do not pass these the test of these three questions. But something like eating meat at a pagan temple (1 Cor. 8) could pass this test. For that matter, not eating the meat could also pass the test.
Should I eat at Subway? Does it pass the test?
Should I steal my brother’s money out of his wallet to eat at Subway? Does it pass the test?
Some questions are easier, some harder. Should I practice Lent? Can I smoke marijuana? Do I have to have a daily quiet time? Should my kids play soccer on Sundays? Who do I vote for? Can I watch TV-M shows? How long is too long to play video games? What do I wear to church?
But I digress (and this list could go on forever). The point is this: be convinced in your own mind. Do it from faith in Christ.
The Fellowship of the Ring is stronger because they are so different but united in purpose.
And (back to my point) this will actually increase love. Wait what? Everyone digging in to their convictions more will make us love each other more? Yes, it will if we submit to the life of Christ in us. Compromise would only cause us to resent each other. But what God is asking us to do here is far better. He’s asking us to trust the Holy Spirit to sanctify us individually as we learn corporately to accept each other’s convictions, preferences, and practices.
We can only do this if we choose to love each other in spite of our differences. To see the beauty of a person living their life in honor to the Lord even if different from how we would. To see freedom in Christ as a grace to receive not a stumbling block to reject.
Without this “spiritual growth” will never be growth by the Spirit, it will be growth by committee. It won’t be “to live is Christ,” it will be “to live is to do what everyone else tells me to do.”
So please understand, the goal of the Holy Spirit is NOT for all Christians and all churches to look alike, and sound alike, and act alike. Quite the opposite. The gospel works best when there are differences – racial, gender, age, culture, AND convictions. Why? Because that’s when the only way we can survive is if we love. If we put the uniting power of the gospel itself above all other things that could divide us. Love has to win in these spaces. Christ alone must be the uniting force, not our opinions, politics, or preferences. Only then will God’s glorious grace be revealed in us.