“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. . . So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:17, 19, ESV)
I was serving as an elder in a church one time where they had the college group conduct the entire morning worship service. The collegians did a great job. At least in my opinion. One of the young men stood up to give a personal testimony. In it, he kind of paraphrased Romans 14:17. To the best of my recollection, he stated it this way. Many people think Christianity is all about the things you do or cannot do. Yet, it is not all about this. It is about “righteousness and peace and joy” that we are to have “in the Holy Spirit.” He went on to share that this was only possible by living by the Spirit.
A few days later the Pastor of the church, another elder and I were in a meeting. The pastor told us that he received a complaint from one of our respected parishioners about what the young man said. The parishioner stated it like this. How can you have someone get up in the church and give a testimony like that, saying it is not about what you do, but life in the Spirit. I know my response was a bit cynical, but I responded, “I guess we’re going to have to teach our young people to be more legalistic in this church.”
One of the major problems we have in Christianity today, at least in some circles, is confusion between the priority of actions and a Spirit filled walk of faith. Yes, our actions do matter, but not in the way the aforementioned parishioner thought. I knew a little bit more about the situation and realized that the parishioner was specifically thinking about actions in disputable areas. The parishioner had very strong convictions about certain things, specifically concerning the matter of eating and drinking.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we can easily get off track if we do not respond to disputable areas with grace. We should not judge. Granted, my own cynical response was rather judgmental and not filled with grace. For this I have since repented. However, the complaining parishioner was not acting as one filled with grace either. For this parishioner should not have pronounced a judgment over the young man’s words. Perhaps the one who was closest to hitting the mark was the young collegian as he correctly paraphrased Romans 14:17.
The correct response would have been for all of us to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”