The Mystery of Balanced Christian 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.” Romans 14:10

I remember being puzzled as a teenager when baptized females wore jewelry. I spoke with the pastor about that and my argument was, “how can these people love God and wear jewelry, knowing it is against his will and it makes him sad?” Interestingly enough, years later I found myself in a similar situation but on the other side. One student coworker approached me with a very serious voice and said, “Petr, I know you study theology and love God. You prayed for me and blessed me. But one thing is really puzzling me. How can you have a wedding ring if you know how it makes God sad?” That was an interesting twist. For me, to wear a ring with my wife’s name on it has been a symbol of being married to a treasure sent by God and a clear sign to anyone around about my commitment to her...

Towards the end of his letters, Paul usually dealt with practical issues related to everyday Christian life, and so he did in the letter to the Romans. After reminding them of the importance of loving relationships and warning against immorality in Romans 13, he wrote about mutual acceptance in spite of differences (Rom 14:1,4,10,13,22,23).

When the Christian community grew diverse, and people with different cultural and/or religious backgrounds joined, the unity of the early church (as described in Acts 2:42–47) was “threatened.” At least this is how a number of people might have perceived it. One way to deal with this threat was to address the theological and religious issues. Apparently some believers in those days tried to do that. They showed their love by pointing out what is wrong with the others (at least according to their opinion). Before long, quarrels “over disputable matters” (14:1) were in place.

Paul mentioned two examples of disputable matters—clean/unclean food and sacred day/days. These two topics not only sound familiar but get pretty personal. Where I grew up, Seventh-day Adventists were known (if they were known) as those not eating pork and observing Saturday. What a coincidence. I am glad Paul brought these two items not in heated theological discussion (against or for), but to promote the important Christian virtue/value of not judging others/oneself for theological or religious differences.

From Paul’s words it appears that not judging or accepting other people was not really a common practice, but it was something unique Jesus modeled. And Paul pleaded with the believers to follow the example of Jesus Christ (15:5). Not theological or religious uniformity but worshipping God and the Lord Jesus Christ together was a foundation for true unity (see 15:6). Corporate worship of God has been the ultimate value that united believers and provided the basis for accepting one another (15:7). Christians were encouraged to strive for peaceful harmony and corporate growth (14:9). Meeting/accepting each other was for the good of growing together (15:2).

But not to judge is not so easy or is it? Sincerity does not necessarily prevent us from judging. Zealousness and religious fervor will not stop us from passing destructive criticism. So how do we answer questions asked in Roman 14:10? For some, condemning may come out of the lack of understanding of other people or circumstances; for others, such behavior may flow out of conviction and religious duty or as a learned behavioral pattern, particularly in a spiritually abusive environment. Judging others may also happen subconsciously as an inner defense mechanism. Treating people with contempt may be fuelled by fear, guilt, hurt, or be simply a sign of personal insecurity.

As Christians and followers of Jesus, we are all more or less on a journey of healing. It is hard to stop judging and condemning, whether knowingly or unknowingly. But we can ask God to help us to experience his unconditional loving acceptance every day in order to live more in balance. Living in balance (spiritual, emotional or physical) is a way to learn to accept others with whom we may not share the same theological views, cultural values, or religious opinions.

Personally, I find myself in a more critical/judgmental to others mode when I am out of balance:

- physically (lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of fresh air, etc.)

- emotionally (depressed, rejected, fearful, insecure, etc.)

- spiritually (feel guilty, unforgiving, disconnected, etc.)

To live as accepting people, and not judging those we may not agree with, requires a wholesome balance (spiritual, emotional or physical).

As a missionary to secular atheists in the Czech Republic, I learned the power of accepting and loving those we were trying to reach out for Christ but did not share beliefs with. We mingled with those, who would most probably never come to church, who grew up in a culture very critical to church, where the majority was angry with God. At one point, a handful of students in my English class showed interest in starting a Gospel Choir. They liked the genre and they did not mind the religious content because it was not their native language. In the last eleven years, the choir grew from seven to over 100 singers. Although for a long time these people did not attend worship service or a corporate Bible study, a close-knit loving community developed united in singing beautiful religious songs worshipping God and Jesus. The last song of a recent concert (December 16, 2017), with a guest singer from Andrews University, was an amazing experience demonstrating the long-term outcomes of accepting and loving people most of which do not share our beliefs and/or theological views (here is the video: https://youtu.be/CZzOwxwv1vc).

Petr Cincala is assistant professor of World Mission and director of the Institute of Church Ministry at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University.

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8470
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The highest form of worship is obedience.

“I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”

" I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done"
Rom 15:14 & 18

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 JN 1:7

One needs to keep in mid Rom 12:2…mind makeover. The meek inherit the Earth. Those who aren’t… DON’T.

The beginning of salvation is repenting from works that lead to death Heb 6:1

Humans inherited a death drive from Adam & Eve.

NO ,NO 1000 times NO !

We are to be anti-social, exclusive snob, bigots to keep the SDA denomination a pure and undefiled, poor ,blind, naked, lukewarm Laodicean royal priesthood.

Can you make allowance for reaching people where they’re at? The idea of becoming all things to all people, as Paul did? How about making room at the table for people with different ideas and trusting God to cause them to stand, as Paul states in Romans 14? How about that God’s perspective on and evaluation of human obedience to the gospel may be different than ours…or yours? Maybe it’s our job to love people and connect with them and leave the judging to God?

Frank

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This is pure genius, Petr!

Worship is pre-rational and reflexive, and these people were clearly worshipping, as comes naturally to human beings who are not interfered with. (And recall Jesus’ strong words for the interfering False Shepherds!)

Perhaps Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is far simpler than we imagine?!


Image

…being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform…

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If I wear my Rolex - no, it is a gift from my father,built 1955 ! -(noo, I never takew it off !) , and if his Rolex was an Day - Month perpetual, all gold, - -Rodriguez would classify it as “functional jewelry”". If my wife would wea a small necklage, red gold, a heritage of my grandother - That is SIN and displeases God ! OK I see it under the cover of stewardship - but my neckties , Italian, handmade, cost € 250. - the set. That is “being properly dressed”

And how can anyone declare Pauls wise advice - not to overload your outside with gold, pearls, well done hair as a commandment ( ! ) of God ? OK. stewardship. But those ladies in that time, overloaded with extremely expensive onrnaments, and a hairdo two maidservanst had to work on two hours every morning, at last spraying real gold powdered on the hairdo - how many newly won Chrisians really could afford that ?

And please undersdtand : My wedding ring is no jewelry, no decoration, - - it is a sign of a special, biblially cherished covenant. - - In subway for example I se more and more peole without this way of confessing their lifestyle. .

The highest form of worship is obedience.

My wedding ring is demonstarting that I obey Gods order for everyone who sees it.
(Of coure the ring was not bought at Joeys shoe shop, but at the jemeler) Decade sago)

(And if some years ago we colected a lt of pebbles in this and that colour on the coast in Corsica and my wife at home had a jeweller at hand to drill holes - and - with the simple dress beneath - this chain was at best “ornament” , but not jewelry. Pllease do not make sins out of the poverty of English vocabulary - and preach it worldwide !.

Thank you so very much for acknowledging that it requires divine help to stop judging. And also living in daily balance. As a teacher I know what a horrible person I become to my students if I don’t sleep well. But God is able if we are willing.

judge notthat ye be not judged.

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