Once upon a time a man took a walk and came to a bridge. When he got to the middle of the bridge, he saw a man standing on the rail, obviously about to jump. The man was distraught so he said, “Don’t jump. I can help you.” “How can you help me?” asked the man on the rail. The first man replied with a question of his own: “Are you a Christian?” “Yes, I am.” “That’s wonderful. So am I. Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “I’m Protestant.” “That’s great. So am I. What sort of Protestant are you? Are you Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or something else?” “I’m a lifetime Baptist,” said the man on the rail. “Praise the Lord,” came the reply. “So am I. Let me ask you this. Are you Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” “I’m Northern Baptist.” “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” “I’m Northern Conservative Baptist.” “Well, call Ripley’s Believe it or Not! This is amazing. So am I. Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Fundamental or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed?” The man on the rail thought for a moment and then declared, “My father raised me as a Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed.” “It’s a miracle,” said the first man. “Put ’er there, pal. So am I.” Then he asked, “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Plains Region?” The man on the rail said, “That’s easy. My family has always been Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region.” “This is a miracle of miracles. I don’t often meet a brother who shares my own heritage. One final question: Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1855 or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1872?” The man on the rail replied instantly, “Since the days of my great-grandfather, we have always been Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1872.” This statement was followed by an awkward pause. Looking up, the first man cried out, “Die, heretic!” And he pushed him off the bridge.
We laugh at that story, but in many ways we’ve experienced a form of this story in our own lives. It’s amazing to consider that if two Christians were to agree on 94 of 95 points, we would end up focusing on the one point where we disagree. This is exactly what Paul was experiencing in Corinth, where he wrote the letter, and it was exactly what the church was experiencing in Rome at this time.
Paul’s “How To” Guide to Surviving the Differences in Church
As much as Paul has shared the differences between Jews and Gentiles, Chapter 14 is more like the “How To” section of what this could look like on a daily basis. There’s two main things that Paul gives his attention to: dietary restrictions and observance of special days. Next to circumcision, diet and calendar were the most sensitive issues that separated Jews from all Gentiles. Now that Paul is trying to unite them as Christians, these conflicts needed to be resolved.
Because of the sensitive nature of these issues, Paul had to offer relevant and specific council. Paul’s goal is to create and maintain harmony among the churches diverse believers. The important thing to consider while reading this chapter is to not keep this passage stuck in the 1st Century. The diversity Paul experienced was one thing, but remember the diversity we still experience in the church today. Again, the perspective of this conversation is between believers within the church trying to survive their different upbringings.
Conclusion and Takeaways
When you break down Romans 14:1-12 there’s really three key takeaways:
- Accept one another as God has accepted you (v. 1-4)
- Have your own Conviction-Jesus is your Lord (v. 5-9)
- Don’t judge Others-We will each answer to God (v. 10-12)
I want you to remember that there will always be people who see things differently than you. Instead of quarreling and grumbling over the petty differences, embrace the phrase, “That which unites us is greater than that which divides us.”
Ephesians 4 is a great place to remember the things that unite us.
Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT) 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.