Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Look at that first line. What an interesting way to open this discussion. How might this apply today? Mainly, I think it shows that this goes a whole lot deeper than just “don’t drink around people that have a problem with alcohol”, or some such usual application. Growing up, this was the main way these verses were used in my life. People would say “you shouldn’t drink alcohol, because some people might have alcohol abuse problems and, seeing you drink, it might lead them into their alcoholism.” This introductory line shows us this is a lot deeper than mere behaviors or doctrinal superiority.
As for the rest of these verses, there a few other big takeaways (other than the hilarious swipe at vegetarians, haha).
First, it does not say that because some hypothetical believers out there might not feel comfortable with some things that others who otherwise feel free to do those things should abstain all together, always, in all places. The burden here is on the person who is “weak”, or who is bothered. They bear the weight to communicate this to the community. They are to let it be made known, and the body is to respond accordingly.
This is Paul teaching us how to respond to the realities and messiness of actual, particular members in the community, not to act generally in anticipation of possibilities.
Yeah, that’s my family (I’m in the front left). This was one Easter Sunday in the 90’s in Dallas, Texas, at a time and place where (I promise) it was absolutely appropriate to dress like that for Easter (except the glasses, of course). I look at this picture a lot, and not just to chuckle. I find it so oddly and powerfully symbolic of what life in the Bible Belt was like.
You see, my family was deeply wounded by “Church folk” throughout my childhood. Just as in the picture, people in the Church would live their Christian lives dressed up and looking good, all while wearing masks, disguising who they really were. When things were hard at home, people at church had no categories to process it. After all, to be a Christian is to be cleansed by Jesus and walk in new life, right? Failures, sins, and brokenness were seen as signs of some disobedience – some place where you weren’t “okay.”
And so begins a guest post I wrote for a wonderful site that should be on all of your radars, Restoration Living. Read the rest of the post here.
I’m taking a class on “The Urban Christian”, and this past week we focused on what happens when the Christian sexual ethic collides with the urban, secular one. We had three excellent readings to which we were to respond. I’d encourage you to read them:
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Good lord, growing up in the Bible Belt, I can honestly say, I heard more breathless, obsessive talk of sex, boundaries, and frustration in singleness in Bible Belt suburbia than I ever have in my current urban setting. This is for a few reasons, I think:
1. Most everyone I encounter is no longer a virgin, and so the mysteriousness and over-idealization of the unknown, for most people, is not…uh….unknown. The magic is gone for many and they don’t spend all their energies trying to get what they can’t have. But, the same contradictory human mind will say that sex isn’t a big enough deal to focus any energy on not doing, but it is a big enough deal that nobody better try to put any limits on that sexuality.