One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 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.
Romans 14:2-3 (NIV)
There’s a great moment in the classic film comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table look at Camelot from a distance and utter the name in reverential tones. The scene cuts to a farcical musical number with knights singing lines like:
“We dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot.”
When the song is over, King Arthur changes his mind. “Let’s not go there,” he says to his knights, “‘Tis a silly place.”
After 40 some years attending, working, and volunteering in various local churches of diverse denominational bents, I have to admit that I often feel King Arthur’s sentiments whenever I look at a church from the outside.
Along my life journey I have experienced a number of divisive conflicts inside the walls of the church:
- Clappers vs. Non-Clappers
- Liturgy vs. Free Worship
- Hand raisers vs. Stoics
- Pre-Trib Rapturists vs. Amillenialists
- Predestination vs. Free Will
- Sprinklers vs. Dunkers
- Wine vs. Juice
- Wafer vs. Bread
- Sunday Sabbath vs. Saturday Sabbath
- Hymns vs. Modern worship
- Social drinkers vs. teetotalers
Like I said, “‘Tis a silly place.”
In today’s chapter, Paul addresses some of the silly arguments that, even in the earliest days of the Christianity, were dividing the followers of Jesus. Can you eat meat that was sacrificed to an idol before it went to market? Is it more virtuous to be a vegetarian? Should we worship on Saturday like the Ten Commandments tell us or on Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead on that day? These types of arguments were as prevalent in the year 57 A.D. as they are in 2016. People are people.
Paul’s message to all who follow Jesus was very simple: Love your fellow follower of Jesus enough to respect his or her feelings and beliefs. Don’t major on the minors. Don’t lord your own opinions over them and dishonor a fellow believer’s heart-felt, personal stand on things that are non-essential to our faith. Love, respect, grace and honor should always trump our desire to be proved right. Take off the Jr. Holy Spirit badge. Let God handle it.
This morning I am reminded to be gracious. To me, the institutional church “‘tis a silly place” most of the time. For other followers of Jesus I know, the local denominational church is deadly serious stuff. Even in this discrepancy, my role is to be respectful, honoring and loving with those whose thoughts and feelings differ from my own.