Teaching Series
Followers of Jesus
Wednesday—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 Testament for Everyone (NTE). Note 1–3 insights or questions. 

Reflect: Critic! Even the word alone can sound painful to some. The dictionary definition of a critic is, “A person who expresses an unfavourable opinion of something.” Who needs another critic in their life? Not me! But I can tell you who needs to hear a word! Does that sound a little hypocritical? Of course it is. It is hard to hear difficult things about ourselves, but fun to share our infinite wisdom and discernment. Let us just for one moment admit in the privacy of this Daily Walk today that we all need critics in our lives. We just need them to be like a pinch of salt rather than the main course. We need criticism to come from a friend instead of an enemy or, worst yet, a frenemy.

Paul was looking at the fragmented community of the early church. Did these people love each other? Were people looking at them and seeing what Jesus had hoped they would see, as recorded by the apostle John?

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

We revert so quickly to judgment calls and cultures of criticism that it can be painful to exist in the presence of some people. Could it be because we actually admire and applaud critics since their very brutality serves us? After all, they make sure we do not waste any time at the movies (if we follow Rotten Tomato ratings) nor allow one fine dining experience to be lost (if we pay attention to the Michelin star system).

Of course, it would come as a shock to some if you should happen to like a movie that has a low Rotten Tomato rating or enjoy a meal at home that has no Michelin star ranking. Perhaps we search for excellence so much that it comes at the expense of humanity. Perhaps we marvel after the perfection of discipleship so much that it comes at the expense of truly following Jesus. Perhaps we have lost the ability to be in the moment because we are always creating it to show our friends on Instagram. Please don’t misunderstand my last quip about Instagram—it is not meant to  be a negative comment on the art of capturing a moment digitally. I admire and love the amateurs and professionals who understand the art of the aesthetic. I’m referring to the pressure that some of us live under, never being able to be in the moment or to relax. Paul is pleading for a change of perspective in Romans 14.

He invites us to move away from constantly trying to be something else. Live and let live. Otherwise, we are going to divide and fragment over things that are not worth fighting over. There is a difference between a principle and a preference. Not everything is a preference. But not everything is a principle either.

It is too easy to be a critic and tear down the things other people are creating. Try building something for a change.

Recalibrate: What are some practical ways that you can be less critical?

Respond: Pray for a spirit of gratitude.

Research: Read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

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).


Go for a walk with your little one today and point out all the beautiful things that God has made. They are not all the same, but each one shows something about who God is. Notice how gardens are filled with a variety of plants that grow together. Choose to enjoy what is different about the people around you. Our differences when we plant them in love can, like a beautiful garden, show something about who God is too.

With a friend, try describing an object or an animal without using its name. Hide the object while you are describing it. How many words did you use to describe that one thing? How long did it take your friend to guess what it was? We all have different ways of saying things. Paul encourages us, in Verse 8, to remember that if we live, we are living for the Lord. How do your words and actions describe who you are?

I facilitate many family therapy sessions in my professional work. A recurring theme I hear is blaming. “Well, if my mother showed me more love, I would behave better.” “Well, if my son obeyed, I would show him more love.” My role is to mediate. I want both sides to understand each other. My ultimate goal is to build harmony. God is mediating for us daily. Read Romans 14:12. Eventually, we will be stripped away from our friends and family, and we will present ourselves to God. There will be no one to blame but ourselves. While this may sound dark and gloomy, think about it this way: No one else can blame you. No one can say, “Well, it’s Vanessa’s fault I didn’t read my Bible more.” “It’s Vanessa’s fault I didn’t pray.” Take an inventory of your actions and behaviors today. What did you do? Would you defend your decisions today?

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