A very well known magazine took a survey by questionnaire from ministers in Korea. The main question was “In the church what kind of person is the most difficult to deal with?” The number one answer was “the person who has fasted for 40 days”. The number two answer was “the people who regularly pray all night”. The third most frequent answer was “the people who have studied at seminary”. Fasting, all night prayer, and studying in seminary are all important things for personal spiritual growth. Therefore, it seems strange that such people would cause problems. However, many people who have experienced such things as fasting, all night prayer, and seminary don’t apply that grace to themselves, but to others. For example, someone who has fasted for 40 days must have received a lot of grace, but instead of thinking about how that applies to himself, he may think that the Pastor needs to be more spiritual or the church leaders need to pray more. If he has prayed then he should be more humble and have more humility, and be overflowing in grace, but in reality instead he judges others.
It can be said that wherever people gather problems will arise. That is because the people who gather together all have different personalities and ways of thinking. If there are 10 people, then there are naturally 10 different ways of thinking. What’s difficult is that sometimes people judge other people’s opinions because they are different from their own. What is important is not to sit in judgment, and blame, but to understand what others are saying and accept each other. Today let’s look at three aspects of not judging others.
I. Those who eat and those who do not eat (vs. 1-4)
Please look at verses 1 to 4.
One cause for judging other people in the church is a difference in the understanding of the Bible, and the understanding of the faith. This letter was sent to Rome which was at that time was the central city of the world, and there many different people were assembled. There were Jews who had made decisions to follow Christ, there were people of Grecian background, of Roman background, people of many skin colors, there were slaves, and there were high class people. Also there were people who were cultured, and there were people that lacked culture. In reality there were many different kinds of people. If there are many different types of people, then it is natural that there are many different ways of thinking. Here the problem is a difference in the understanding of the Bible. Verses 2 and 3 deal with the problem of food, and verses 5 and 6 deal with the problem of days. There was a difference of understanding on such things.
First, about food, some people believed it was o.k. to eat anything. However, some people believed that you must not eat anything but vegetables. This is not like vegetarians who claim this for reasons of health, but they claimed this for religious reasons. At that time, those who were called people with a strong faith believed that through the Gospel of Christ they were set free from the Old Testament law and traditions so they believed that they were set free from the rules concerning unclean food recorded in Leviticus chapters 1-16 in the Old Testament, and ate freely with no concern as to what they were eating. Also about the meat that had been sacrificed to idols that is brought up in I Cor. 8:4 they thought that the idols were not real gods so they didn’t worry about it and believed that it was o.k. to eat anything. This type of people knew well what the freedom that the Gospel brought was so they looked down on people who were attached to the law.
Another example is verses 5 and 6 where some people considered “one day more sacred than another” (5) while others considered “every day alike”. (5) It is thought that this refers to those people who even though they became Christians, they still considered first of all the Sabbath, and then all the days that were commanded to be observed in the Old Testament as special days and kept them. However, for Christians who believed that that they had been set free from the law, they couldn’t accept the life style and thinking of those who were still following the law and judged them.
However, even when the opinions and thinking about our faith is different, we should not judge others. “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” (3) We must not judge someone Christ died for because of food. If God has accepted the person, then it is only natural that we accept him.
However, even if a person considers himself a Christian, there are some people that God has not accepted. The reason that God doesn’t accept a person has nothing to do with such food or drinks. It is because the person has the wrong doctrine about salvation. Salvation is in Christ. If you don’t confess Jesus as Lord, you can’t be saved. Even so there are some people that don’t recognize Jesus as God and others say that you can’t be saved just by believing. These people are definitely wrong. We need to take a definite and clear stance towards who have the basics of the Gospel wrong.
However, there is also a gray part. For example, how you baptize is one gray part. Some people say you only have to sprinkle water to be baptized, but others claim that baptism means “immerse” so the whole body needs to be immersed under the water. We are Baptists. Baptism by immersion is one characteristic of Baptists. There are some churches that require Christians who have not been immersed to be baptized again. However, what is important is not how you were baptized, but that you believed and were baptized. Those who believe and are baptized will be saved. Even if the method was wrong, if you believed, then God is pleased and you are saved. Things like this, just because our thinking is different, we should not judge. However, the church has order so, while respecting individual thinking, and accepting them, we should follow the thinking of the whole church. If not, then it is best to go to another church that has the same thinking as you.
The same thing can be said not only about baptism, but about the minute details of the Christian life too. Some people say you must not drink or smoke, but others think that you are free. On such issues, we are not to judge, but must accept each other.
An American Pastor, Charles Swindol gave 7 reasons why we must not judge.
1. We don’t know all the facts.
2. We can’t fully understand the motives.
3. We can’t completely think objectively.
4. If we aren’t in that situation, we can’t know it correctly. .
5. There is a part that we can’t see.
6. We all have prejudices, and there are times when our field of vision diminishes.
7. We are not perfect and we are not consistent.
When we think about it, what we know is only a small part. We have a tendency to only take in what is good for us. We have a habit of looking at things self centeredly. Since we are like this, if we judge others, then that is the real problem.
Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay not attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-5) The person we must judge in not other people, but ourselves. First of all we need to take out the plank that is in our eye. Then we will be able to see clearly and can remove the specks from our brother’s eyes.
There are many different kinds of people in the church so many differences are born. However, we must not judge, but we should recognize each other, and accept each other. There is no one that can say that only their thinking is right. People who are used to meditating, please don’t say that people who all pray together at one time in a large voice are fanatics. Also people who pray in a shouting voice, don’t look at people who are praying quietly and say that they are spiritually cold. It doesn’t matter if we pray in a shouting voice or pray quietly. All we need to do is pray. We need to think that the other person is receiving grace by another style. That is being patient.
II. Know your position (vs. 4)
The second point is that we must know our position. Please look at verse 4.
Paul is having us look at what our position and situation is. That is the reason that we must accept those who are weak and not judge. Our position is that we are nothing but servants. Therefore, “who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (4) A “servant” is a person that is used in the home. He is used in someone’s home, but other people have no right criticize him. It is only the master of the house who can criticize. Especially other servants in the same position have no right to say anything. If that happens then that the servant does not know his position. It is a slander to the work of God. It exceeds his authority. To exceed your authority means to go beyond your rights. If you can do that without being disturbed by it, then that is sin and must for sure be admonished. .
III. Living for the Lord (vs. 5-8)
The third point is to live for the Lord. For Christians this is the most important thing and is our foundation. Please look at verses 5 to 8.
Here the words, “to” or “for”, meaning for the purpose of is used 7 times in this passage. In other words, whether you eat or whether you don’t eat, whether you observe or don’t observe is not important. What is important is the purpose of eating, of not eating, the purpose of observing special days or not observing special days. And for Christians the most important thing is that it is “for the Lord”. “Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord…and whoever abstains does so to the Lord.”(6) “Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” (7) Each person “should be fully convinced in their own mind” (5) how they should act and act that way. The most important thing is whether it is for the Lord or not. It depends on whether we are living for the Lord, whether we will die for the Lord or not.
The reason is given in Romans 6:18
We have believed in Jesus Christ, been united with him, have become Christ’s slave, the slave of righteousness, so we are not to be controlled by sin.
We have been crucified with Christ, and died with Christ to our old life of sin, and have been changed into a new life in Christ. We now live as a new creature in Christ. We have been changed into a person who lives for the Lord. This is the most important thing for Christians, and is our foundation.
Why are you living? Christians never live by or for themselves. Also no one dies for themselves. Christians confess that if they live, they live for Christ. If they die, they die for Christ.
Florence Nightingale who is famous as being a nurse not only for her own country, but for taking care of the enemy soldiers too. She said, “Having a love for your country is not enough”. A larger love is needed. She took care of not only her side, but her enemies too, helping all who were injured. These words are calling out to us Christians too. Just being right is not enough. We must love. Just being correct is no good. We need a large heart to accept others. Christians need a large heart. We must not judge, but be patient. We should accept those who are weak in faith. We must not judge their opinions. Within that life style, God’s glory will be seen. For Christians who confess that whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s this is not difficult to do.