Is this really what God wants??

We have discussed Romans 14-15 in both of our Wednesday and Sunday Bible Classes recently for multiple class periods.  It wasn’t planned that way, the two coincided.  I feel that this is one of the most neglected and needed passages for the church today.

The discussion boils down to how do we apply, live, practice this? And it isn’t simple.

I continue to be disturbed by statements that say either explicitly or implicitly:

  • the lost are more important than the saved
  • we should make decisions that will reach the lost even if it means losing saved members
  • our Goal is to reach the lost at all costs, including sacrificing current members
  • good leaders are willing to make decisions for evangelism to bring in new people, even if it means losing current ones

Is this Biblical?  Does the Bible say that God loves the lost more than the saved?  I think we all struggle with the balance.  I don’t want a church that is controlled by the minority or one individual with a weak conscience.  Is it really, “reach the lost at all costs?”

but this is what Paul said:

“If your brother is distressed because of what you eat (do/believe), you are no longer acting in love.”

“Do not by your eating (actions) destroy your brother for whom Christ died.”

Why are so many quick to throw this out the window to reach out to new people?

Can’t we do both.  Is it really glorifying God if we only accomplish one and neglect the other?

How do you find the balance and apply this passage?

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8 thoughts on “Is this really what God wants??

  1. I don’t know.

    I don’t know about balance – Paul never seems very interested in balance. This is the guy that also says, “I become all things to all people, that by any means available I might save some.”

    I understand the passion for the lost – and in the Bible Belt, we still have the luxury of believing that most people we “sacrifice” for the sake of inviting the lost will end up in a congregation that makes them feel comfortable. They aren’t leaving JESUS – they’re leaving one particular assembly.

    In your area, things are somewhat stickier – because people who leave your congregation have a much higher chance of not landing somewhere else. But I still don’t think they’re leaving JESUS. And we should be begging and pleading for them to stay – “my way or the highway” has no place here. And if they do leave, we should continue to lovingly serve them and include them in as much of our congregational life as possible – most people leave because of hurt feelings, not because of doctrinal lines in the sand. That being said, most of the lost are turned off by cold attitudes, not a cappella music or traditional leadership roles or whatever the hot-button issue is. If we are loving, and humble, and honest (willing to say the hard things with love, backing up that love with consistent service, and being willing to study with those who feel like we’re reading Scripture wrong), I think we’ll be offering up authentic witness to the gospel. Beyond that, it is in the Lord’s hands.

    But I don’t have a problem with a congregation being “ruled by the minority.” I do have a problem with congregations that are not ruled by the mission. Some congregations should, as PM says so well, take down the Church of Christ sign and replace it with, “Keeping the Gills comfortable for 25 years!” Until Php 2 becomes the context in which we read Rom 14-15, and 1 Cor 14, and Eph 5 and Col 3, etc etc., we will still have this problem. Until we can clearly understand *why* Paul says, “Stop passing judgments on one another,” (and leaving a congregation is certainly passing a judgment) – because he has called us to “imitate me, even as I imitate Christ” – the Christ who emptied himself and gave up all of his rights so that we might have eternal life, we will still feel like we deserve to have things the way we’ve always had them. When necessary, Rom 14:13-15 should be taught to the lost as well – they need to understand *why* we don’t do certain things that we’re free to do. Sadly, the lost (or newly saved) will often be more willing to sacrifice than their “more mature in Christ” brethren.

  2. Also, “distress” and “destroy” there seem to be much stronger words than we give them credit for. “Distress” is the same verb that Paul uses for “grieving the Holy Spirit” in Eph 4:30, and “destroy” is apollumai, the kind of destruction reserved for the Enemy at the end of time.

  3. brian

    thanks, nick for your input.

    tucker, you are right, it has to be both, but how is the question.

    I think the hardest thing for me (apparently others) is that we are necessarily supposed to teach and try to change people’s minds about issues we believe to be disputable.

    our practice is to teach, try, then give up. and either reject and judge, and feel like we have done all we can, but Paul says let each one be convinced in his own mind and to keep some things secret between you and God (14:22)

    those are tough for us

  4. as for throwing out love for my brother in order to reach the lost, that would totally defeat the purpose as i see it. our love and caring for one another are just a few of the very characteristics that should draw others into our church communities and to our God.

    i think that’s why we’re instructed to take care of the physical needs of our brothers and sisters before we take care of those who are not christians. i also think that’s why we don’t take one another to court. etc.

    the problem, as i see it, is that love doesn’t always do what the other individual desires. sometimes love is offensive.

  5. OK, my turn to chime in. I have not read everyone’s thoughts, so if I overlap, I apologize and repent.

    This is a question of Earthly eyes looking at Heavenly standards instead of Heavenly eyes looking at Earthly Standards. Simply put, we need to stop looking at the lives of others from our view and look at them from God’s view.

    Looking at others through God’s eyes shows that God loves everyone no matter what their condition. His love has His purpose to have all men be saved (2 Timothy 2.3,4) in His Heart. The saved and the lost are equal before God, but maybe not equal in rejoicing; for even someone who is well has no need of a physician. (Mark 2.17)

    Remember the Lost Coin or the Lost Sheep or the Lost Son? The angel rejoiced when the found. When someone wonders from the fold, there is sadness because they once tasted the heavenly blessings but now have turned away.

    Whereas the lost, may not know they are lost and they are unknowledgeable of their lost state. When their eyes are enlightened so are ours. We rejoice heavily when they obey because it is a new experience.

    I believe this is why God gave use the abilities He did. he wants us to use them in specific ways according to the measure of the grace given. (Matthew 25.14-30; Romans 12.3-8 and Ephesians 4.1-18). Elders are to shepherd the flock and be aware of the lost that are leaving and GO GET THEM!!! (not watch them leave)

    God loves all and we need to remember that! If we do not care for our own members, we will not care for the lost. When we watch members leave and not love them as much as God does, we are to be a people most pitied!

  6. Let’s remember that in Romans 14, Paul is taking up the issue of eating certain kinds of meats. Meat is nothing…the mission of God does not hinge on whether I can exercise my freedom to eat whatever meat I want to eat when ever I want to. Therefore, if my exercising of the freedom to eat any type of meat would destroy the faith or my weaker brother then I should refrain from the particular meat in contention.

    However, when there is a sin so egregious that it threatens the very gospel mission, Paul seems more than willing to get rid of the Christian involved in such sin before a little bad yeast ruins the entire dough (cf. 1 Cor 5.6). So there is a precedent for getting rid of that which theatens to derail the gospel/mission of God.

    Unfortunately, that only offers two polarities when we often find ourselves stuck somewhere in between. Those whose faith is so immature that they cannot understand the mission and therefore seek to bind the church by their traditions are hardly weak. The weak person in Roman 14 is someone who would literally have their faith destroyed, not someone who would be offended because the Lord’s Supper was conducted in a manner that goes against their traditional preference. Likewise, bad traditions are generally not a hinderence to the gospel because most people can see past them with the right teaching.

    So what should one do? I am of the belief that the mission of God cannot be sacrificed for the traditional preferences of the church. If that were not so, the Jerusalem conference would have had a much different outcome. I believe therefore that while we exercise patience with people to try and bring them along to a theological understanding of scripture that is conducive to participating in the mission of God, we must live out the mission ourselves whether they like it or not. If they leave a particular congregation because of that, I believe that is a choice they made (one they will be accountable to God for) and not a choice the others made for them.

    I hope that helps some.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

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