Teaching Series
Followers of Jesus
Monday—In the Tension

Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Tension
Preacher: Mark Witas
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira

Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.

Read: Romans 14:1-23 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: Some people are drawn to the mountains. Some live for the beach and the sound of the waves. Some love the stars at night from the middle of the desert. While I can enjoy all of those locations, I love the movement and vibe of a city. I have travelled all over the world and can tell you that in every city—whether it be Sao Paulo, Rome, New York, Johannesburg, Munich, Hong Kong, Sydney, or London—the ultimate test of quality is in the variety of food available. Has that city really become the Ephesus or Corinth of the world? Has it become the melting pot of culture? It's because it passes this test with such a high score that I will always love London most.

Have you ever noticed how in large complex centers of influence the melting pot is not always melted? We are not as “cosmopolitan” as we like to imagine—at least not in terms of understanding one another. You can walk the streets all day long and hear 20+ different languages and accents. You can see signs in one, two, or three different languages. You can see people all different colors, sizes, and styles. You soon realize this section belongs to the French, or the Italians, or the Turkish. It hasn’t ever really melted into London or New York.

I didn’t quite grasp this until over a quarter of a century ago, when I was in Macau, China (while it was still owned by Portugal). I was travelling around one day, trying to get my bearings, and suddenly I heard two Catholic nuns speaking English. The language was like music to my ears. I could not help it; I started to stalk them. I followed them onto a bus and travelled for quite a distance just so I could hear them speak. There is something about the sound of our own language that resonates deep within each us. This is why every time I fly home to England the first thing I do when I get into my rental car is switch on the radio and listen to LBC London. When I hear the sound of Londoners speak (my language) I know I’m home. We all find comfort in things that remind us of who we are. We find it in language, sounds, foods, scents, and cultural identifiers that communicate a common narrative.   

Could this be the reason we have so many different churches? Could this also be why we have some people who are weak and others who are strong? What if it is not about quality or depth of your faith but about your cultural identity? Several scholars believe that there is enough evidence within the text to support that the “weak” reference by Paul is intended to mean Jewish Christians. Consequently, the “strong” reference is intended to mean Gentile Christians. In AD49, many Jews were removed by decree from Rome, only to return in AD54. Those Jewish Christians would have returned to a well-established Gentile Christian Church. What was the solution? We have—at times intentionally and other times accidentally—slipped into culturally- and ethnically- focused congregations. That is why you have a Swedish Church in Finland or a Brazilian Church in London. It just seems to make so much sense to fellowship with people who make you feel at home.

Recalibrate: Are truly multicultural churches possible or should we encourage single-culture churches? How do we create more diversity of thinking in a local church?  

Respond: Pray for the Holy Spirit to build unity in diversity.

Research: Read about the origins of regional conferences in the USA.

Remember: “Do not, then, pass judgment on one another any longer” (Romans 14:13, KNT).

Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).

Make a “taste plate” of different foods for you and your little one to share. Explore the different tastes and textures of the foods and see what your child likes or dislikes. While there are some foods we want our children to love, sometimes we’re in a “not just there yet” situation. Lead by example and enjoy each food on the plate.

Make a sandwich. Using two pieces of bread, put them together. Do they stick together? Of course not! Spread some butter or peanut butter or jam on one slice of bread then see if the other piece sticks. Of course it does! Imagine that the plain piece of bread is a person and that the butter or the sticky stuff that you spread in between is love. We could have a big argument over what type of sticky yummy stuff is best to spread on the bread but that doesn’t get the sandwiches made, does it? Make a sandwich tower using a piece of bread for each person in your family and or friends. Use all sorts of fillers in between the slices of bread and then share the sandwich tower with your family and/or friends. Yummy!

When I was in middle school, someone told me that something I was doing wasn’t pleasing God.  For the sake of the story (and to go with the food theme in Romans 14), let’s use the example of eating jelly beans. I had grown up eating jelly beans. My parents fed me jelly beans. All of my friends ate jelly beans.  So, when this person made me realize that this whole time I was doing something God would not approve of, I made a change. I completely stopped eating jelly beans.  I felt relieved; I knew God was happy now. I started to tell my family that we all needed to stop eating them. No matter the flavor, no matter the type. We needed to stop. Then I started noticing that all the people around me who professed to love God were eating jelly beans. I started to judge them and think to myself, “Clearly, they are not right with the Lord.” I know it sounds silly now, but back then this was very important to me. My wise father started noticing my attitude change. One day he sat me down and we talked about the jelly bean drama. He said, “Look Vanessa, I know you’re doing this because you’re trying to please God. But honestly, I am certain that God cares more about how much you love Him and how you treat others. Because you know what? There aren’t even jelly beans in heaven.” I remember being so mad at my dad for confronting me—but then I realized I had become so obsessed with this one rule that I had lost sight of God. Paul describes how we can become so fixated on keeping certain rituals that we start passing judgements on each other. What are some things you judge others about? Do they distance you or bring you closer to God?

Join us for Worship
Boulder Church meets every Saturday for worship at 9:30am.
Learn More