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 English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: It was an endnote in Michael F. Bird’s commentary on Romans that connected me to this resource written back in 2005 by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary and Boyce College. The article is called A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity. Mohler writes that he observed the triage system at a hospital and thought, “If they know how to decide what is important when it comes to saving lives we should work out a better way to talk about faith so as to not disrupt mission.” Michael Bird summarized Mohler’s theological triage as follows:
(1) Views essential to the faith; (2) Views important to the faith and order of a church, but not necessary for salvation; and (3) Views that may be treated with indifference, a matter of conscience, often called adiaphora.
Of course the debate would come as to which matters fit into 1, 2, and 3. Michael Bird shared a classic example:
While meat was symbolic for the Jewish contest against idolatry, in other times the issues have been different. For instance, in sixteenth-century England, the dividing issue among Protestant churches was over the ministers’ attire. The deeply divisive “vestrian controversy” was about whether ministers could or should wear vestments like a surplice, alb, cope, and chasuble. One’s view of the preacher’s attire determined who was “in” and who was “out” of certain factions. The debate led to persecutions, imprisonments, and a monumental tract war.
An immediate outcome was the Puritan split from the Church of England into the Presbyterian churches.
Within my own tribe, Adventism, we can’t seem to work out if we are talking about issues at levels 1, 2, or 3—or if we believe everything is a level 1 and we have no other categories! Our recent implementation of “non-compliance committees,” effectively a system to work out who is “in” and who is “out,” has required a public relations scramble. The administration team called on the retired Pastor Mark Finley to explain what is going on with a piece called Mystifying Myths.
Where would you put the issue of women’s ordination? A 1, a 2, or a 3? How about playing the organ in worship? Wearing jeans to church? Where would you put—oh my, I am already so bored with these questions. Not because they are not worthy of being addressed, but because “I am persuaded in the Lord” (Romans 14:14). I am confident we are strong and can welcome in Jesus.
In Romans 14, you gather that Paul understands fully that the levels 1, 2, and 3 exist. That we are fighting over things that really should not divide us. That is why he started back in Romans 12 with the challenge for us to be transformed through intelligent faith. Paul doesn't want us to fall into the same traps as everyone else. He wants us to keep our minds sharp and to think through hard questions. To see that the body has many functions, and to remember that we all have different roles. We are not clones. We can be of one faith, of one body, and of one community with lots of different expressions. We need to not make everything an issue of life and death. We need to have broader shoulders. We need to have a bigger table. See Matthew 22:1-14.
Recalibrate: Jesus set the table. How do we resist choosing the guest list? What prevents us from accepting the invitation ourselves?
Respond: Give a pray for thanks for the gift of salvation.
Research: Read one of the recommended commentaries on this passage.
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).
The Bible says, in our verse for this week, not to pass judgement on one another. With your little one, experience the world God has given you. Choose to see what is good. Choose to respond to sour things in a sweet way. Know that even though we have no idea what is around the corner for us, God does. Live, love, and lead your little one in the wonder of God’s love.
The Bible says, in Romans 14:13, that we should stop judging one another. Have you ever played a game where the kids you were playing with kept telling you how to play and not in a fun way? Have you ever not been allowed to play because you were too small or not good enough or, like me, too old? Paul is encouraging us to play well together with everyone.
The final verse of this chapter reads, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” The Greek word for “faith” in this verse is pistis, which means “conviction.” If we are not acting in the way we are convicted to act by the Holy Spirit, then our actions are not driven by Him. This text is pretty clear: our actions aren’t gray; they either represent God or they do not. If we are wanting to grow our faith, we will study the Scriptures. We will spend time in communion with Jesus. We won’t use our energy judging others but rather will spend more time growing in Him. This is the essence of what following Jesus is all about. Our eyes will be turned onto Him.