Sometimes I think it is very hard for Christians to learn how to be Christians in our current culture. We live in a culture that applauds self-expression and individuality. The world says, “Be who you want to be. Express yourself.” So, we have become loud, arrogant, boisterous, and opinionated. And I’m not just talking about young Christians; the older folks can be just as loud and opinionated.
The internet has made the situation worse. Now we can blast our opinions all over the world and hide behind a screen name. We loudly trumpet our political opinions, saying anyone who disagrees is ignorant or evil. We loudly trumpet our religious opinions, saying anyone who disagrees with us is a heretic. We loudly trumpet our parenting opinions, saying anyone who disagrees with us doesn’t know how to raise children. But have we stopped to ask, is this how Christians should behave?
I think most of us – including me – have bought into the lie, “Your opinion matters.” But, why should my opinion matter? The truth is, in most cases it doesn’t matter. In the end, my opinion is just my opinion. Here are four lessons from Romans 14 we need to learn about our own opinions:
1. Don’t Argue About Opinion Matters (Romans 14:1)
There are some things that are biblical matters; things God addresses clearly in His word. And then there are things which are opinion matters. There are always going to be things another Christian feels are right and you feel are wrong, but don’t argue about it. There are going to be other things you feel are right and another Christian feels are wrong, but don’t argue about it.
I’m not suggesting we stop discussing biblical principles and how those principles apply to various situations; but there are issues which are obviously just matters of opinion. It is these issues about which we have got to decide we will stop arguing.
Obviously, you can’t stop other people from expressing their opinion to you. But you can determine not to argue with them. You can determine not to stoop to their level by implying your opinion is better than theirs. Say to yourself, “So far as it depends on [me], [I will] live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18).
2. Don’t Judge Others by Your Opinion (Romans 14:4-13)
The word of God is the standard of right and wrong. Your opinion is not. If someone is doing something the Bible indicates is wrong, “warn him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:15). But, if someone is just doing something about which you think, “Well, I would never do it that way,” remind yourself your opinion is not the standard of right and wrong. When it is your turn, you have every right not to do it in a way you feel is wrong, but don’t bind that on someone else.
Again, don’t get carried away with these principles and start applying them to things God actually gives us instructions about. When God says we should do something in a certain way, then that’s the way we must do it; and we are obligated to hold one another accountable to that standard.
But we cannot hold one another accountable to the standard of our own opinions. Paul wrote, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls…Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:4a, 10).
3. Don’t Cause Someone to Stumble by Flaunting Your Opinion (Romans 14:13-21)
At this point, many Christians say, “Yes! I can do whatever I want and you can’t judge me!” Hold on! Wait just a minute! As I said at the beginning, the church was never designed to be a place of selfish, individualistic, self-expression. There is a very real possibility you could cause a brother to stumble by rushing ahead and not considering his or her sensitivities.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “‘All things are lawful,'” but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). Obviously, Paul is not saying there is nothing that is sinful; that would contradict the things he had just written about sexual immorality and other sins. He was saying there are many things we have the freedom to do, but are not beneficial for the church. As Christians, we are obligated to put the best interest of others above our desire for self-expression (Philippians 2:3)!
People have such a tendency to put themselves first and say, “I can do whatever I want.” But God’s word says if doing whatever you want “grieves” your brother and causes him to stumble, “You are no longer walking in love” (Romans 14:15). It is incumbent upon every Christian to be aware of how their behavior might affect others and act sensitively and lovingly toward their brethren, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).
4. Do Your Best to Keep Your Opinion to Yourself (Romans 14:22)
Not only should we do our best to keep our opinions to ourselves in the sense of not arguing over them, we should also keep our opinions to ourselves in the sense of not acting on them. Of course our culture cries out, “You can’t squelch my personality! I have a right to express myself and my opinion!” Again, how long is it going to take for us to realize Christianity is always counter-cultural?
This is what God’s word says, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Romans 14:22).
Learning the Balance
Just because you “don’t see a problem with it,” is no reason to act upon it, and just because you “have a problem with that” is no reason to condemn someone else for it. If we are going to be disciples of Christ, we must be people who proceed with things only when we can do so with faith and not offend the consciences of our brethren (Romans 14:23). If we are going to be disciples of Christ, we are going to have to learn that being sensitive to our brother’s conscience is much more important than getting to do what we want to do. If we are going to be disciples of Christ, we are going to have to learn we are not in charge and Jesus is!
I’m trying hard to learn how to do this. I hope you will be patient and loving with me as I’m learning and I’ll try to do the same with you.
I love you and God loves you,