Good morning friends!
I read this passage this morning, and it struck up some thoughts in me:
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.
Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
First of all, this passage which was written something like 2000 years ago seems to acknowledge that there will be superiority complexes out there about what and how you eat. Who knew that Paul could see Vegans in the future?
But seriously folks. There are so many lifestyle choices out there for us to make. There are choices around what we eat, how we eat it, where we eat, and with whom we eat. There are choices about environmental concerns, like what types of material we use on a daily basis and how what we consume is made, whether there are fair trade practices involved, and what kind of impact our trash will have on the environment. There are choices about living conditions. There are choices about what and how we consume news. There are choices about everything.
And let’s be very clear here from the start: Some choices are discernibly bad ones. Anyone who chooses to perpetrate abuse is doing it wrong. Any choice that robs another of their humanity is a poor choice. Choices that ultimately lead to our own harm are not advised. There are, in fact, bad choices. To say otherwise is misleading and harmful.
However, I think we have to take Paul seriously about judgement, even and especially here in 2019. It seems like our culture is super interested in judging people for their choices. If you choose this political party, you’re one of “them.” If you choose this feeding method as a new mother over that feeding method, you are ridiculed. If you favor this denomination over that denomination, you clearly are not a Christian. These choices should not be the cause of judgement says Paul, and I’m one to agree. We are called to love, even and especially those who make different choices than us.
So how do we help our brothers and sisters keep from bad choices, without giving in to judgement?
My favorite tool is the question. Not the snarky, I’m trying to win some points here kinds of questions that are all too prevalent. Not the faceless, nameless social media questions that allow us to hide on the other side of the wires. But the legitimate question. The “I’m actually trying to learn something about you” kind of question. I think 90% of bad choices happen when someone hasn’t fully thought through the consequences, and so you might cut someone off at the pass before they make a poor choice. Even better, if they have made a legitimate choice that is different than yours, you may actually learn something about the world you didn’t know before.
For instance, “How can you possibly believe that about Jesus?!?” is a question that to me feels like it is full of judgement. I might ask someone instead “How did you come to believe that?” or “What life events got you there?” or “Can you tell me how you fell in love with Jesus?” That conversation has better tires for the journey than those laced with Judgement.
To be clear, I’m not excellent at this. I know about myself that I have a pretty judgemental heart, and I’m trying to work on it. Perhaps this blog post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. Either way, let’s try to leave the judgement up to God, and ask better questions of each other.