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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Romans 14:20-23 – Keep disputable views to yourself

Is there a way to deal with situations in which there may be the possibility of causing someone to be stumbled? It looks as if Paul says that a Christian should practice his freedom as if God was looking on, which he is, of course; and that Christian should forego his freedom in some situations because it will please God. A Christian who has qualms should perform them as if God was looking at his conscience and not according to what other humans are doing. This should comfort the strong believer because he has no reason to condemn himself and it should comfort the weak believer because he has not condemned himself either. The important requirement is that we do everything by faith in God.
I may think it is a good idea that all believers should adopt the practice of praying three times a day. I can quote Daniel as a good example. Somebody else may say that we should pray seven times a day because one of the psalmists did so. There is bound to be someone who will say that we should pray all day because we should pray without ceasing, although if we took that commandment literally we would never sleep.

In any case, here are three good suggestions, and each of them has some biblical support. What should we do? If I am with the person who wants to pray three times, I should go along with it. If I am with the person who stops to pray seven times a day, I should go along with it. If I am with the person who wants to pray all day, I will tell him that I’ll join him when he manages it!
We should not misuse this passage to manipulate people in order to get our own way. The passage only applies to believers who are likely to be stumbled by an action. I have met many believers who have used the idea of ‘offend’ as if it meant being offended. It does not mean that. The truth can offend some people, including Christians. I have met Christians who were determined to fight everyone over their notions, and there was no possibility of stumbling them by disagreeing with them!
Paul reminds us that should show a sacrificial spirit, willing to adjust our own preferences in order to help another. Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 that if become living sacrifices we will discover the satisfying will of God. Helping the weaker brother is one way of finding the good will of God and its accompanying benefits.

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