Tag Archives: Junior Holy Spirit Badge

Keeping it to Myself; Holding it Together

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 14:17 (NIV)

Yesterday Wendy and I were with our local gathering of Jesus’ followers and I met young ladies who were from Honduras, Nigeria, and Afghanistan. I was told that the first time my young sister from Afghanistan joined us I happened to give the message that day, and she was relatively new to living here in the States. At some point during the message I began to cry (that happens quite frequently, I’m afraid). She, however, was taken aback. Culturally, men in Afghanistan do not cry, especially in public. She laughed about it now, and the moment became an opportunity for her to learn and grow on a number of different levels. Very cool.

Along my journey I have encountered people from all manner of cultural, religious, and denominational backgrounds. People have all sorts of things that are important to them religiously, spiritually, or culturally from things you eat (or don’t), things you wear (or don’t), and certain days that are special (or not). We’re not talking here about matters of civil law or basic morality. This conversation is about preferences, practices, customs and traditions that are not the command of Christ, though they may hold some special spiritual significance to a particular individual or a particular group of individuals.

As Paul is writing to the followers of Jesus in Rome, he is aware that among all the fledgling local gatherings of believers there are very diverse cross-sections of humanity. Not just Jews and Gentiles, but people from different nations, tribes, cultural backgrounds, and socio-economic positions. This would especially have been true in Rome which was the cosmopolitan epicenter of the western world at the time. The Jesus Movement was breaking down barriers between people for the first time history and for the first time people were interacting with one another, eating together, worshipping together, and speaking to one another as equals on a regular basis. Of course this is going to create all sorts of minor clashes between people from diverse cultural, religious, social and economic backgrounds.

In today’s chapter Paul gives some very clear teaching on these various and sundry differences.

First, he points out that what a person eats and drinks (or doesn’t) and what days are of special spiritual significance (or not) are really of no concern to God but are merely concerns of personal, individual conscience. This, in and of itself, might be a huge eye-opener if my ego has convinced me that I am the universal spiritual template and standard by which all other followers of Jesus should abide by and be judged. Each individual, Paul instructs, should worry only about herself/himself and her/his own behavior in accordance with her/his own conscience before God.

Second, Paul explains that because many different believers have very different matters of conscience on these matters there is no binary “right” and “wrong” in these matters except within my own heart and mind. These things are a private matter between me and God.

That being said and established, Paul urges me to take off my Junior Holy Spirit badge and stop playing spiritual judge, jury, and executioner applying my personal conscience before God onto others who have very different consciences before the same God. “Worry about yourself,” Paul is saying, “and let God worry about others.”

Finally, Paul exhorts me to follow the example of Christ and put others and their personal consciences above my own right to exercise my very different conscience. If I know that a person holds that Sabbath is sacred, I’m not going to ask her/him to come over and help me move my couch that day. If I know that another person finds alcohol to be evil and prohibitive, I’m not going to make an appointment to meet that person at the local pub and I’m going to abstain from drinking in her/his presence.

And, if a sister finds that a man crying in public is wrong, well…I’ll try to hold it together!

Have a great week, my friend!

 

Chapter-a-Day Romans 14

Ran across this pic while doing some homework....
Image by dpstyles™ via Flickr

If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help. Romans 14:4b (MSG)

As I’ve walked the journey with many fellow believers of a wide range of theological persuasions, I’ve noticed a common issue in our interpersonal relationships. I now see the problem, though at one time I didn’t regard it as such. At one time I considered this nagging characteristic a badge of honor, and I see that many of my brothers and sisters continue to do so. I call it the “Junior Holy Spirit Badge.”

The Junior Holy Spirit badge is worn by those of us who believe it is our sworn duty to personally convict others of their wrong doing. Eyes like a hawk, we hold our favorite version of life’s rule book in one hand and our personal tally sheet in the other. Constantly aware of what others are doing around us, it is our sworn duty to get in their face, point out what they’re doing wrong, point to our dog-eared copy of the rule book and call them to step in line behind us. Where would God be if he didn’t have me, Junior Holy Spirit Badge emblazoned upon my chest, helping Him to daily separate the sheep from the goats? After all, how are people going to be convicted of their sin, if I don’t personally tell them they’re sinning?

I have a confession to make. Somewhere along journey I took off my Junior Holy Spirit Badge and threw it in the ditch along the road along with my tally sheet and personal rule book. I realized that God’s message never asked me to convict people of their sin, but over and over again commanded me to forgive them. I also realized as I read His Message that I’m supposed to share God’s good news, which is love, grace, forgiveness, restoration, redemption and life. I didn’t have time to share the good news when I was busy sharing with people the bad news about what awful, terrible, sinful things they were doing and how it was going to land them in a world of spiritual hurt if they didn’t follow my prescribed version of personal obedience to God. I got tired of convicting people. It left me with no energy to love them.

And, I don’t want a merit badge for convicting people, I want a merit badge for loving them.

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