As I wrapped up my study of Romans, I was left really pondering chapter 14 and the issue of Christian liberty. I have lots of liberty. Our house doesn't have many rules, as we believe that God gives us much leeway in terms of food, clothing, holidays, music, hair, make-up, movies, jewelry, and general behavior.
Shoot, even the Council at Jerusalem couldn't come up with more than four rules.
So why, when I survey the Body of Christ in general, do I see such a variety of rules for holy living? I know people think Romans 14 was just about eating and drinking. But I beg to differ. I think it's about both living a life that demonstrates that Christ died to make us free and loving our brother enough to take note of his weaknesses.
But here's the kicker: Romans 14 is there because what for the strong brother is freedom for the weak brother is sin. Sin. A strong conscience operates under the fundamentals of liberty. A weak conscience operates under the fundamentals of fear. Do you hear what I am saying? Do you, like I do, read Romans 14 and always think of yourself as the stronger conscience and shake your head in disdain at the brother who can't bring himself to eat bacon? Do you realize that he can't eat it because he thinks it's SIN?
And that made me think...I bet I think I have a strong conscience because everything I think is wrong, I think is obviously wrong. I think I have scriptural backing for my lines in the sand. But isn't that precisely the view of the weaker brother? He believes he has backing for his lines, too. I wonder if it's worth going back and reading Romans 14 from the position of the weaker brother rather than the stronger one.
What might I find if I read Romans 14 from a position of weakness rather than from a position of strength? I think I might find that there are weak spots on my conscience, too. I might find that I have restricted the behavior of people around me who love me and don't want me to stumble.
And that terrifies me.
There is nothing that makes me more paranoid than being dead weight to my friends. You know dead weight. They're the ones you see coming, or you see their number on caller id, and your shoulders slump, and you think to yourself, "I just don't have the energy for that person right now." My parents called them "drainers," and my friend Bev calls them "life-suckers" because they sap your energy. They take time and special care. And talking to them can be like walking through a minefield. And since I run from drainers because they make me so uncomfortable, I'm terrified of turning into one myself.
So, as it turns out, I could use a lot more charity when it comes to liberty. I might be the stronger conscience in many areas, but, then again, I might be the weaker conscience, too. It is head knowledge that needs to migrate to my heart. Until it does, this is just another area where I fall far short of the glory of God.
"Lord, make us instruments of your peace.Where there is hatred let your love increase.Lord, make us instruments of your peace.Walls of pride and prejudice shall ceaseWhen we are your instruments of peace."