We are called to be understanding and patient! As "older" or more "mature" Christians we should gladly accept people who are "weaker" in faith. The Bible is clear that we are not to despise or judge them, put them down, or belittle them! The call is to love one another and treat others with respect, even when they are doubtful or indifferent to Christianity and us. At the same time, Christians who are new to or who are not mature in the faith need to be under care for the forming their relationship with Christ and others. As we are all accountable to Christ. Christ is the judge, not us. We are the feet of the good news to bring love and discipleship to them! In so doing we can pursue peace and harmony and the building of our mutual faith and not to be divided on the silly things of life, such as this passage illustrates being food.
· We are not to cause people to stumble either by our action or inaction. Our faith and actions will be closely monitored and will either lift them up or bring them down! Hypocrisy is perhaps the most deadly threat to the new or weak Christians who are victims of it, and is a heinous sin against Christ and His children by those who cause it! We as a body of Christ must seek to show right actions to each other, to be cautious, and to act with charity, humility, and self-denial within our Christian liberty.
· As Christians who are "new" or "old" in the faith can be immature in our faith and thus may not have a well-grounded understanding of the things or take for granted what we have in Christ. Thus, we have to beware not to be swayed to sin and false doctrines.
· We also need to be careful how we use our words; do they show our love and care? As many people may not understand terminologies or our social customs and way of doing things as Christians. If you are new you will pick them up in good time, if you know them be patient with those who do not. Therefore, we are called to be understanding and patient. We are to mentor and guide each other in love and truth. We are not to put others that do not meet our personal criteria down but help lift them up. Hypocrisy will be the spiritual death of us and our church if we do not act and react with wisdom!
· Maturity and growth in Christ is by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also a choice we receive (Phil. 2). This is called sanctification, or the Holy Spirit working in us. Consecration is the work we do to tear down the barriers of our self-will and pride that block the work of His sanctification! We must respect and work with one another to further His Kingdom, to keep our eyes focused on Him and not on our feelings, focuses, or disagreements and differences. When we do, our attitude will be based on Christ and not on our self-delusions.
· The attitude of acceptance is being welcoming to others outside our perceived parameters of acceptance. We are definitely outside of Christ's parameters of acceptance, yet He accepted us!
· Being charitable (positive relationships of patience (I Cor. 13 & Gal. 5) is a "MUST" part of the Christian experience and duty! The eating of vegetables as being weak is a metaphor and illustration and not from the Law, (Dan. 1:12) or a dietary recommendation of Paul. A lot of inner conflict was over superficial food or the correct day to worship. Today, Christians will fight more viciously over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary.
· In Christ and for Him, Unity is more important than resolving trivial disagreements (1 Cor. 8; Gal. 1:6-7; 3:1-5; Phil. 3:2,18-19)! We have no right to dictate to others how they are to act in minor affairs such as eating. We are to model righteousness, not legislate it. We are not to drag new and weak Christians into our doctrinal conflicts. This throws the focus off discipleship and is not important to them.
· We must allow love to be the foundation of our relationships--the love of our Lord, the love He gives us. Acceptance is not a suggestion for an easier life. It is a command from our Lord God! We are all answerable to Christ. We are His servants, and we are all to honor Him.
· We do not live to ourselves. Since we belong to Him, we are in community with one other. There are no "Lone Rangers" in the Christian life!
· Do you realize that you are responsible for the growth of others in Christ (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:27; 12:26; Eph. 2:6)? Remember, others have their eyes on you. If you stumble, others will too. If you succeed, others will too!
We have no right to judge one another! We must allow our pride to yield to the necessity of being accountable to one other. The more mature ones must disciple the immature. Keep in mind that all of us are equal in the Lord. Never allow your maturity and growth to be a source of pride or use it to put others down! At the same time never let your immaturity make you jealous of those who are mature. Do not seek an easy way to maturity. It takes years of learning and discipline. Even Paul was discipled for three years by Barnabas before he went on his missionary journeys, and Christ Himself directly interdicted Paul!
The only true judge is God. When we attempt it, we usurp His authority and make a mess of it, since we are not God and have extremely little information to go on! Our focus must be in keeping our own accounts straight and not worrying and interfering with others. We are not to live to ourselves, but rather live for God! When a true Christian is living in God's Will, we have no barring to judge them or where God leads them! When we make disciples, we make them in Christ's character, not in ours! We have no right to make servants of our opinions and ourselves.
1. Knowing that vegetables are very important to our health, and people who eat lots of them live longer, are more active, have more energy, feel better, get sick less and so forth, why do so many people refuse to eat them? How is this like growing in Christ?
2. The eating of vegetables by one weak in faith is a metaphor and illustration. In your experience, what do Christians today viciously fight over? Are they important?
3. Do you show understanding to Christians who are new in the faith or who are not mature in the faith? Why, or why not?
4. Why would Christians who are new in the faith be easily swayed to sin and believe false doctrines?
5. Have you considered that Hypocrisy will be the spiritual death of us all if we do not act and react with wisdom? If so why? If not, why?
6. Have you experienced maturity and growth in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit? If so, what are the main factors that inspired you to grow? If not, what are the barriers that held you back?
7. How can we respect and work with one another to further His Kingdom?
8. What were the main reasons for disagreements and differences in your church over the years? Looking back on the disagreements of years gone by, are they important now? Why, or why not? Will the controversies we have today be important to you ten years from now?
9. What is the key factor(s) in order to prevent hypocrisy from flowing from you?
10. Is the attitude of acceptance of others important to you and your church?
11. How can you be more welcoming to others outside your perceived parameters of acceptance (such as cultural, race, income, social.)? With this question in mind, do you realize that we are all definitely outside of Christ's parameters of acceptance, yet He accepted us anyway?
12. Why is being charitable (positive relationships of patience) a "MUST" part of the Christian experience and duty?
13. What happens when we do the opposite in our personal relationships? What happens when we do the opposite in our church?
14. How can you determine when is necessary to take a stand and fight or when you should let it go?
15. Read Gal. 1:6-7. Is our fighting anything new?
16. How can unity be used in resolving trivial disagreements?
17. Read Phil. 3:2; 18-19. How can you and your church determine between those who are just new and confused to those who are willfully seeking the destruction of the church?
18. Legalism is the setting up of rules to control others in the church. Sometimes these are good rules. Sometimes they are silly. Why then do we not have the right to dictate to others how they are to act in minor affairs such as eating? Why do some churches still practice legalism?
19. What happens when we drag new and weak Christians into our church fights?
20. What needs to be the foundation of our relationships, the love of our Lord, and the love He gives us?
21. Acceptance is not a suggestion for an easier life; it is a command from our Lord God! Why does He give us such a command?
22. We are all answerable to Christ. We are His servants and we are all to honor Him. So, how can we do this when we are fighting?
23. How does Christ see our fights and disagreements? Are we then just to gloss over them and ignore one other?
24. Why can there be no "Lone Rangers" (people being alone and not needing others) in the Christian life?
25. Do you realize that you are responsible for the growth of others in Christ?
26. Our focus must be in keeping our own accounts straight and not worrying and interfering with others. How can you do this?
27. What can your church do to develop a system of accepting the new and "weaker" Christians? What are the factors to consider?
28. Remember, others have their eye on you. So, if you stumble, others will too. If you succeed, others will too. How does this make you feel? Does it inspire you to do better?
29. How can you prepare yourself to prevent your maturity and growth from being a prideful thing, or from using it to put others down?
30. How can you prepare yourself to prevent your being jealous of those who are more mature, or to seek an easy way to maturity?
© 2001, R.J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.discipleshiptools.org/