Romans 14:22 (NIV)
Lately it seems that the more time I spend on Facebook, the less I like it. Maybe I had better clarify that a bit. It's not Facebook in and of itself that I am having trouble with, it is some of the stuff I've been reading there that is beginning to bother me. Wait a minute; that's still too generic. Let's try this again. I'm bothered by online theological arguments over doctrines. There, I've said it.
No, I'm far from perfect myself in this area. I've been known to launch off in a tirade or two myself, all the while grinning at how flustered people seemed to get by it. Let it be known here and now that I have repented of that. Lord helping me, I hope to be a little more careful of what I say to whom. I guess, as the old saying goes, "what goes around, comes around." I'm now the one flustered by pointless theological arguments. My new mantra comes courtesy of the Apostle Paul: "So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God" (Romans 14:22).
Does that mean that theology is not important? No, I'm not saying that. But what I am saying is that if theological discussions are not done in love, then they had better not be done at all. To be fair, many who espouse these "discussions" do think they're doing so in love, but in truth, if the other person is offended by it or bothered in any way by it, then they have NOT acted in love.
I love the 14th chapter of Romans. We would do well to think about what Paul said there in light of many of our theological and doctrinal discussions. He said,
"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. Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 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. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgement on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we all stand before the judgement seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of a brother" (Romans 14: 1-13; ESV).I think that what Paul is saying here is that there is a tendency among those stronger in their faith to belittle those who are perhaps a little weaker in the faith. Are we who are a little stronger in the faith more prone to enter into quarrels with those a little weaker? Not only does that seem to be what is being suggested in this text, it also fairly accurately describes my latest Facebook beef that I alluded to above. A footnote in my Bible says, "The strong are liable to ridicule and mock the weak with their delicate conscience. Conversely, the weak are prone to pass judgement on those who feel the liberty to eat anything." The point is, God has accepted both the stronger and the weaker believer. I am starting to wonder why it seems so difficult for us to go and do likewise. All I can say is, I'm thankful God doesn't treat us the way we tend to treat each other!
There is another side to this coin that turns my stomach every time I see this sort of nonsense amongst so-called Christians on Facebook. Unless every person who "friends" you on Facebook is a like-minded believer, we are airing our carnal theological bickering in front of non-believers too. The very people you and I have been called to go to for the purpose of sharing the Gospel and making disciples (Matthew 28:19), those non-believing "friends," are reading this judgemental theological junk on our Facebook streams and have to be wondering what on earth those "Christians" (or maybe better, pseudo-Christians) are ranting about. If I was in the shoes of some of my non-Christian "friends," I am fairly certain that I wouldn't want anything that we Christians are selling!
- Am I that arrogantly sure that I alone have cornered the market of fully understanding the ways and nature of God better than this other brother or sister who is irritating me with their doctrines?
- Do I really believe that all other "Christians" who think differently than me could not possibly have also heard from the same God that I profess to have heard from?
- Even if they have irritated me with their "seemingly" anti-Christ doctrines, 1 Corinthians 6:7 says, "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?" Can I live with that?
- What does my online ranting do, or fail to do, for my witness for Christ? Hmm, I wonder.
- There is nothing wrong with my theological views, for they are mine, but can I keep them as a private matter between myself and God (Romans 14:22), and especially so if they are likely to promote "dissension and factions" (Galatians 5:20) amongst other believers?
- I titled this little post, "Live and Let Live." Can we "Live and Let Live?" Do we want to do it?
- And maybe most importantly, is what I am about to post online really and truly done in LOVE? If not, should I even be going there?