"Till Our Dying Day"??
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. 5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If 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. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written, ???As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.??? 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.??
In the scheme of being spiritually strong and spiritually weak, it is our judgments that make us weak. Those who are strong are those who know and practice hospitality. This kind of strong spiritual life is what allows the Church to do effective ministry and facilitate real change in people's lives. The key to understanding our text today is v.1. For us to truly welcome others in Christian love means to love them regardless of where they stand on things that exist on the outer rim of our beliefs. Regardless of how different their ideas of Christian devotion or discipleship looks like, we must have a spirit that looks passed the non-essentials and embraces the essentials.??
All of our different Christian denominations like to give themselves cute little names with special emphases that set them apart from others, when in the end these have been nothing short of setting ourselves above others. When we judge what is best for others based off our own opinions and convictions, we fall horribly short of what God is trying to do, and what God is trying to do is call all people back to Himself. This life, this Christian life, is about nothing other than transformation, about becoming a new creature, created in the image of Jesus Christ so that we may be brought back into relation with a God that loves us above and beyond all other things.
The people Paul is talking to this morning had caused terrible division within the community. You see, Paul isn't calling vegetarians weak in this passage. He is calling those who believe salvation depends on certain rules and rituals weak. By using the word weak, Paul means that they are limited. Their limitations are seen in their lack of acceptance of others, of the non-Jewish Christians. Their exclusivity shows their lack of understanding of what Christ requires in order to be saved. The non-Jewish Christians knew nothing of the law of Moses and were not expected to be held accountable to something that Christ had already fulfilled. In Jesus Christ we find the fulfillment of the law of Moses and the things spoken of through the prophets. Because of this, the gates of salvation have been flung wide open. Grace has taken on a whole new shape and entry into the kingdom of God has become a simple doorway called 'Jesus'.??
The strong are those who have understood this; people like Paul. The lesson here this morning is to understand that we can't squabble over our interpretations about how certain things need to be done. There are ways of living out this Christian life that are ironed out in time; ways that take shape in unique ways in different communities because of the make-up of that community. This is why different cultures behave differently; why different denominations choose to worship Christ in different ways. It isn't that any of these things are wrong, we just need to understand where these differences belong in relation salvation. We may do things one way on Sunday morning here at this church, but it doesn't mean that all churches should do things exactly the same way. Each worshipping community SHOULD be a reflection of the people that make-up that community.
The warning here is in knowing ourselves and in
knowing where our true love lies. If our love for our rituals, traditions, and ways of doing things outweigh our understanding that Jesus desires that all people come to know God as Father, then we have a profound problem. God has chosen to draw all people unto Himself through the Church. We are the vehicle God has elected to spread salvation throughout the world. In order for us to that, we must open up our hearts and our lives to others in ways that show no prejudice, that looks beyond the things our cultures have taught us, and to see people for who they are in God's eyes???as people He has forgiven. God's heart has bled for others to receive His free gift of salvation.??
Putting aside differences and recognizing the real meaning of forgiveness is a most appropriate topic today on this 10 year anniversary of the Attack of the Twin Towers. What happened on September 11, 2001 is a horror that many do not wish to revisit. As a result of the event, there is the famous question "Where were you when the planes hit the towers?" Similar to the question surrounding President Kennedy's assassination. I was in New Testament class at Young Harris College. Rev. Whitley was teaching when two friends of mine walked in to class late. They were asked why they were late and they said there was something going on in the news, something about a plane crash. Little did we know when we got out of class that the world was upside down. I was the president of the Wesley fellowship at the time and we gathered around the gazebo in the center of campus with Rev. Whitley to plan a quick service and pray with people who were unnerved. It was a sobering moment for everyone. People were scared and confused, but people were angry, too. I'll never forget some of the hateful things that were said and even I lost my cool and said some regrettable things that day.??
But here, 10 years later, it must be proclaimed on THIS day ??? among others ??? that we must accept what may seem to many to be an impossible truth: that the evil that took place this day was covered by the blood of Jesus Christ 2,000 ago. From the Cross of Christ flow streams of mercy that move followers of Jesus to forgive the ones who robbed thousands' of life and happiness. It is of the greatest importance that we do that today, that we exemplify to the world what it means to bless those who persecute us, as Jesus teaches us in Luke 6,??
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
This is what we proclaim until our dying day. All of life for the Christian is a life that preaches Christ crucified and the world forgiven. It is this sort of up-side-down thinking that Jesus expects us to live out in the world. Again, it's about putting aside our differences and coming together to celebrate the one most important thing, which today, is forgiveness. Whether it's squabbling over which way to be baptized or who's to blame for national catastrophes, grace and forgiveness is the name of the game. This is what we proclaim until our dying day. This is what Jesus did, from life to death to life again.??
Before we can do effective ministry ??? at this church or any church ??? we must know ourselves and understand our hearts. We must be aware of our prejudices and judgments. Once we take on this task, we can allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our weaknesses in order to redeem our fallen understanding of God's mission. We must allow God to come into our hearts and into our judgments and smooth out the rough places that exclude others, that judge others, that harbor bitterness and hatred toward others. On this day, September 11, we should all take the challenge to let God have His way with our judgments. We should echo David in Psalm 139.23-24,??
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.??
Lastly, understand that your devotion to God is able to provide shelter for those who are flooded by life's hardships. If you will be redeemed and spread redemption through your life, you will give people the chance to stand before the judgment seat of God with joy instead of tears. Verse 11 & 12 tell us that everyone will give praise to God, no matter their eternal situation. God WILL BE acknowledged by ALL as Lord and King. Let them say it as a joyful child who is about to receive their inheritance and not a lost child who never opened their gift. Till your dying day, will you set aside the differences you have with others and will you tell them about God's salvation through Jesus Christ? Do that, and you will be found by God as a strong and faithful servant. Amen.??
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