The Strongest Christian is…
By Dr. David Anderson [Pastor David is my Senior Pastor at Bridgeway Community Church, Columbia, MD]
The strongest Christian is the one who is mature enough to accept those who are weaker. According to Romans 14 the believers who have a difficult time eating certain foods due to spiritual or ceremonial concerns were seen by the Apostle Paul as “weaker”. Those who were not liberated to worship on particular days or had a problem with special holy days were also seen as “weaker”.
Whatever the case, whether eating, drinking, celebrating special holidays or a myriad of other disputable matters among believers, the call to unity could not be more clear then when Paul said, “Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)
We are commanded to accept others without three prevailing attitudes.
First, accept others without casting judgment. (Romans 14:1) In Romans 14:3 Paul teaches that we must not “look down“ on others. That means, secondly, we are to accept others without criticizing them with contempt. And third, he goes on to say that we must not “condemn” others who have a different perspective on a matter as well. (Romans 14:3b) His reasoning is that “God has accepted him.” (Romans 12:3c)
Therefore, if God accepts someone else who holds a different view than I do on matters of conscience, matters of preference and matters of conviction, then surely I must do same. In fact, accepting others without judging them is a demonstration of spiritual maturity. The burden of unity falls on the one who is more spiritually mature. This means that the one who is less mature may not strive for unity or peace, but will work to divide, not even thinking about how divisive he or she is being.
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1) This is a tall order for the stronger believer! So let me ask you, how strong in the Lord are you?
If you want to test your spiritual maturity, try a different and less traditional test that doesn’t focus on how many hours you have studied the scriptures or prayed to God. Let’s not test your maturity by how much you serve or give. All of these things can be measures of our maturity, but the test below is seldom added into the mix. Let’s measure ourselves by the judgment/acceptance test.
- Do I pass judgment on other people because of their theological views by talking behind their backs or speaking about them negatively on social media?
- Do I criticize how others do ministry because it doesn’t fit my preference?
- If God has accepted a certain group of people, then why am I having such a hard time accepting them as He does?
- Is my Christianity about pleasing others to build them up (Romans 15:2) or pleasing myself to build me up? (Romans 15:1)
- Am I more concerned about promoting my preference and opinion than seeking peace, mutual edification, endurance, encouragement and hope? (Romans 14:19; 15:4-5, 15:13)
Sometimes it seems like the strongest Christians are the ones who are the loudest, proudest, and most vocal. But from these passages it seems to me that the strongest Christians are the ones who actually seek a spirit of unity, build bridges of peace, and tend to offer words that encourage others for their good. To me I am discovering that the strongest Christians are the ones who judge less, seek peace more, extend hope, and accept others because they themselves have been accepted by God.
At the end of the book of Romans, we are reminded and urged by Paul to “watch out for those who cause divisions” and even to “keep away from them.” (Romans 16:17) Maybe Paul knew that negativity is contagious and we might catch a critical spirit from others who cause divisions. He says that such people are “not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.” (Romans 16:18)
We don’t need to worry about those who cause divisions. We simply need to be aware of them and wise in how we interact with them. The bottom line is that our ultimate unity is found in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. The ultimate divider, Satan, seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. In the end, however, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under his feet.” (Romans 16:20) Notice how Paul describes God? The God of peace.
Where will God crush Satan? Under his feet. When we stand in the armor of God we stand on what? The gospel “shoes of peace” (Ephesians 6:15) In other words, as God’s children we are to walk in peace with the Prince of peace, doing our best to keep the peace (Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:3) without dividing over disputable matters of conscience.
Therefore, ask God to strengthen you by helping you accept others and leave the judging to Him. (Romans 14:12)