One morning last week while I was in ABQ, I was reading the passages from the lectionary for that day. Relax – I’m not that holy and I don’t do it every day but I felt a spiritual compulsion that day. I opened up and read the Romans 14 passage and I have to say it was the reason I felt compelled. I’ve posted it below. Please don’t give me crap about using The Message. Sometimes I like it.
Because God is funny, that same day I met a man at the office named L. L is a very Texan, retired police officer who is also a church-goer. He’s got Jesus-related mugs all over his desk. Somehow, we got on the topic of church, probably b/c I work at one, and he said he used to attend a Presbyterian church but they left the denomination or split or something and there was a lawsuit and they lost the property. He said there were two issues – one tolerable and one intolerable. The tolerable one was the ordination of women and the intolerable one was the ordination of LGBTQ people. Now the building houses a gay church and there are rainbow flags all over it, which in his estimation was not what God intended.
I really can’t even begin to discuss how much of that is not in line with my theology, but the important thing to note here is that I chose not to discuss that with L. Granted, we were at work, which is odd, and I was also on my way out the door for dinner. However, I choose to believe that my restraint had more spiritual groundings, specifically in Romans 14. The phrase that sticks with me is “treat them gently.” I really want to learn to do that. Not in a condescending or patronizing way, either – but with genuine gentleness. After all, God invited us both to the table.
Romans 14:1 – 5 (The Message)
1Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with–even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
2For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly. 3But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. 4Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
5Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.