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. Romans 14:7-9
I love these verses from Romans chapter 14. I first came across them in a meaningful way planning a funeral and sadly, I’m not sure I remember whose funeral it was. It was at least five or six years ago. I love that that no matter what, we are the Lord’s, we are held in the hands of Christ, and that our live is not our own but God’s. Also, these verses remind me of the supremacy of Christ not only in the world but in the afterlife as well. It reminds me that I can be confident of my salvation despite my sin because Jesus is Lord of both the living and the dead and as a follower of Jesus Christ, my salvation is already taken care of.
But what is interesting is that I went back and looked at the context of these verses amongst chapter 14 of Romans. And that is where things get interesting. Here are all the verses before and just after these verses from Romans. So we are looking at Romans 14:1-7, 10-12
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.
VERSES 7-9 HERE
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 judgement 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.
The verses all around 7-9 deal with not judging others. Notice that Paul does have opinions here, but notice how he says to not force your opinion on the other. Paul tries to remind everyone that not only do all people belong to the Lord, people are doing their actions in honor of the Lord. Paul is reminding that it is alone God’s job to judge, not ours.
But most importantly, Paul is reminding the Romans, and all of us, that unity is found only in the Lord. Unity is not present because everyone feels the exact same way about every issue. Unity is not found because all are in agreement but because ALL BELONG TO GOD. “We are the Lord’s.” That is the most important thing.
I think these verses are especially important in today’s cultural climate. We immediately pass judgment on others for their political beliefs or the sides they take on an issue. Not only that, we treat them as an enemy. No longer does it seem that people are willing to listen to an opinion different from their own. No longer does it seem that people are willing to talk to understand the other. You watch Fox News and take everything they say as gospel, or you watch MSNBC and take everything they say as gospel. Your opinion is the only “right” one and if someone disagrees with that opinion, then they can’t be your friend. We look to destroy the other instead of trying to understand, we look down on the other instead of viewing them as they: children of God, just like us. Sinful human beings; just like us. They belong to the Lord just as we belong to the Lord.
The greatest threat to the church in the world is not the culture and it isn’t this political party or that. It is us. It is Christians. We are the greatest threat to the church because of the ways we judge people and the superior “moral” attitude we often hold over others. That attitude is revolting to those whom we should welcome into our pews. It is abhorrent to our young people that a church that espouses “God is love” so harshly denies that love to certain segments of our population, either outwardly or passive-aggressively.
It should not be this way. We cannot be that way. All of us, from myself to the people of Trinity Lutheran, to the wider church around the world, needs to remember that we are the Lord’s, and the Lord is both the living and the dead. We need to remember that our neighbor belongs to the Lord, that political opponent belongs to the Lord, that person across the globe is the Lord’s.
The change must start with us. The change may be slow, it may be frustrating, and it will certainly be difficult. But we know that God is with us. We know that, no matter what, we belong to the Lord. May the Holy Spirit inspire us to live not as people of judgment, but as people of hope and love, willing to engage and understand those different than us.
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