We pray you have been blessed by this daily devotion. If you received it from a friend, you can see other devotions and studies by visiting our website at www.awordfortoday.org.
A WORD FOR TODAY, September 11, 2023
“Therefore let’s not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way, or an occasion for falling. I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself; except that to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if because of food your brother is grieved, you walk no longer in love. Don’t destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Then don’t let your good be slandered, for God’s Kingdom is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up. Don’t overthrow God’s work for food’s sake. All things indeed are clean, however it is evil for that man who creates a stumbling block by eating. It is good to not eat meat, drink wine, nor do anything by which your brother stumbles, is offended, or is made weak.” Romans 14:13-21, WEB
I have been involved in multiple conversations about using a crucifix for personal or institutional art. Should a Christian who wants to share Jesus Christ wear the horrific symbol of His death at all, and especially if the cross includes His beaten and dying body? Should a church have a crucifix in prominent display in the worship space? There are those who claim that the gory Christ is a deterrent for seekers. Others insist that the symbolism of the art and architecture is important to the theology of the Church. The crucifix discussion is just one of many that cause Christians to debate, and these debates often become personal and hurtful. I don’t think we are much different than the disciples in Jesus’ day. They were trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian.
Paul is writing about a different issue, but it really isn’t that different. There were some people who thought one thing about food and others who thought another thing. There were those who thought it was a deterrent for seekers and another who had theological reasons for their point of view. Their opinions caused anger and hurtful comments, breaking fellowship and dividing the Church.
It doesn’t seem very important, but how we deal with these issues matters. What are we saying by our art and architectural choices? What are we saying by the food choices we make? It is possible that we can deter people from entering our churches and fellowship, but it is also possible that we cause people to misunderstand the work and grace of God by our choices. These are difficult issues even though they seem unimportant. Who cares what sort of art is on the wall? Who cares what sort of food we have at our potluck? The problem is, it does matter to some people, and that’s what Paul is addressing in this passage.
Is God glorified by which type of cross (or no cross at all) we have in our sanctuaries? Is He glorified by the type of food we eat? He is certainly not glorified when we allow our conversations to become personal and hurtful. The most important thing, as Paul writes, is righteousness, joy, and peace. No food or decor will ever make us righteous; it will never give us the joy or peace that comes with faith in Jesus.
Sometimes it is important to listen and understand the reasons why our brother or sister feels the way they do. Sometimes it is better to walk beside them in their choice; to eat what they feel is right or use the decor they prefer. If this matter will cause our brother or sister to stumble, then grace demands that we do what we can to build up their faith. There is a time and a place and a way to educate, and perhaps we can eventually convince others to our point of view, but what matters most is love. God is not glorified by our opinions, but by our fellowship with one another and the unity of His Church.
A WORD FOR TODAY is posted five days a week – Monday through Friday. The devotional on Wednesday takes a look at the scripture from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday. A WORD FOR TODAY is posted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Word-for-Today-Devotional/339428839418276. Like the page to receive the devotion through Facebook. For information and to access our archives, visit http://www.awordfortoday.org