Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Romans, Day 38: Romans 14:1-12 - Why Do We Love to Judge Each Other and How Can We Stop?

Today's Reading: Romans 14:1-12

Why Do We Love to Judge Each Other and How Can We Stop?

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. - 1 Corinthians 14:4, ESV

Back when the Jerry Springer Show was at its peak of ratings and raunchiness, I knew a Christian woman who watched it fairly regularly. When I found out that she did, I asked her why. After all, the show was full of grossly immoral people boasting of being grossly immoral. She said it made her feel better to know there were such people in the world, because it made her life seem very normal, tame and righteous by comparison.

We all get caught in the comparison trap in many ways. Sometimes we are envying and coveting, and at other times we are looking down our noses in contempt. It seems almost inevitable. Even as I type this, I can look out the window in front of me and see a new Cadillac contrasted with my old Saturn. I can covet and compare, and I can even begin to judge someone I have never met. Why do we do this? Ultimately, I think the core issue is a lack of faith and humility.

We aren't satisfied with what God has given us, and we think we deserve more. We like to think we deserve it because we think (or hope) that we're better than a bunch of other people who seem to have so much more than we do. I'm convinced this is what drives the voyeuristic magazine sales at the grocery store check-out lines.

We bring this very human tendency into the church and we theologize it. We pick our personal convictions and scruples and we cast a comparing eye at others:
  • Does he really drink alcohol?
  • Why does she have a tattoo?
  • How can he justify driving that car? Wearing those clothes?
  • Does he do that on a Sunday? How dare he?
  • Their church is so entertainment-driven.
  • Their church is so boring and dull and lifeless.
  • They just don't take the Bible as seriously as we do.
  • They take their religion far too seriously.
In Paul's cultural context, the issues often swirled around the ceremonial law (certain Jewish holy days and dietary laws) and the idolatrous culture (meat sacrificed to idols). Then, as now, the church had some folks who were convinced that a proper diet makes for true godliness.

I am not trying to minimize the importance of living according to our Biblical convictions. I am not trying to deny that some of the distinctions we make have merit to them. However, we need to recognize our human tendency to judge, compare, condemn, covet and somehow exalt ourselves, even if we have to use the Gospel or theology as our platform to do so.

We need to remember that we have nothing but what God has given us. Even the understanding of His truth and His word is a gift of the Holy Spirit and not a source of pride. Our salvation is His work from beginning to end, and He has more children than just those who belong to our particular denomination or theological tradition. We need to humbly confess that we deserve nothing and that He has been very, very good to us!

From the foundation of faith and humility, we can live lives of gratitude and joy. We can stop comparing and judging and start loving people. May God give us the grace to do so.

Here's a blast from the past, but a wonderful worship song -

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