Monday, June 14, 2010

Gateway to Legalism

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

13 Μηκέτι οὖν ἀλλήλους κρίνωμεν· ἀλλὰ τοῦτο κρίνατε μᾶλλον, τὸ μὴ τιθέναι πρόσκομμα τῷ ἀδελφῷ ἢ σκάνδαλον.

Romans 14 may be the favorite chapter of those who are very conservative in their practice, but generally only after their culture.  For example, go into a reasonable Baptist church and you will likely not find anyone drinking wine at their dinner parties.  The Baptist culture is such that they typically abstain from alcohol.  If they are reasonable in their bible reading, they will admit that they do not see any biblical mandate forbidding the consumption of alcohol, but they suggest that we suspend this Christian liberty for the sake of any weaker brothers.  

I am certainly in favor of that.  I would have a hard time with someone watching various shows around me because I am certainly a weaker brother when it comes to lust.  I would never drink around someone who once struggled with alcohol.  It just would not be nice.  However, I would like to see this verse applied uniformly.

Let's not drink coffee around someone who once struggled with caffeine addiction.  Let's not provide dessert to someone who struggles with gluttony.  Let's not have any corporate singing around someone who struggles with the desire for the praise of man and has a good voice.  And so on.

As my examples show, this quickly runs off to absurdity.  I think we should be careful when we know that someone around us struggles with some temptation.  I would expect the same courtesy.  Paul writes this chapter to those who are aware of another's struggle.  He tells them not to be a hindrance to those who struggle.  That is a very loving attitude.  

My theory is that the application of this verse is really a way of justifying a culture of certain rules.  I hate to call it legalism because by definition legalism is trying to earn your salvation.  However, it does tend to set up a two-class system where the sincere believers do things one way while the immature do them another.  Let's not fall into that trap, but let's enjoy the good gifts God gave us in moderation while producing the fruit of self-control.

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