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October 6, 2023 - Romans 14

Paul writes about relationships in the church body: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him” (14:1-3). There is so much here, so many examples that Paul gives, and he adds: “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (14:7-8).

A couple thoughts. First, ultimately, each of us will be judged, not by others, but by the Lord himself. So, we must always be asking, not what do others think of me, rather, is the Lord pleased with me? Second is this counsel regarding the manner in which we regard others in the church. I cannot help but think back to the days of COVID restrictions and masks. How burdensome were those expectations! And there really seemed to be no conclusive evidence that the wearing of masks prevented infections. However, there were those who were very uncomfortable being around unmasked brothers and sisters. However the authorities instructed us, and whatever we thought about those instructions, why would one not be aware of other’s feelings, give up one’s right to omit the mask, and lovingly wear it? In the church, we just do things differently and with different motivations. In another place, Paul, using the example of Christ, writes: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). This is who we are. This is how we live with one another. This is how we love. May the chorus of Harper Smyth’s hymn be our prayer, especially within the household of faith.

Make me a channel of blessing today,

Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;

My life possessing, my service blessing,

Make me a channel of blessing today. --Harper G. Smyth (1903)

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