TO CHEW ON: "Therefore let us not judge one another any more but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in a brother's way .... Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil .... Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." Romans 14:13, 16, 19.
If you have ever parented an infant, you have witnessed complete and total self-absorption. A baby cares only about itself, its hunger, its comfort, and its need to sleep or not. It does not ask you whether this is a convenient time for it to nurse, or go on a crying jag, or mess its diaper.
One of our jobs as parents is to channel that self-absorption into an awareness of others and their needs. We label an adult who is stuck in a childish, self-absorbed state immature.
Here Paul talks to the family of God in Rome about some of these maturity issues. Three "therefore"s signal the conclusions to three mini-arguments. They help us identify areas in ourselves that might be challenged by self-absorption.
1. "Therefore let us not judge..."
Paul ends a whole section with that simple conclusion (Romans 14:1-13). He does give an alternate response to cultivate: "rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in a brother's way." Another way we could express this is, Don't judge the actions of others; rather judge yourself and rein in actions that might cause someone to trip-up.
2. "Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil."
Paul precedes this with the opinion/belief that nothing is intrinsically unclean. He would probably be referring to the unclean foods and actions defined in the Old Testament law. What makes transgressing these old prohibitions sin, then, is whether they violate one's conscience. Paul pleads with his readers to take into account the tender conscience of fellow Christians before doing things they know others would find a problem.
3. "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another."
Why? Because this attitude offends no one. It pleases God and people (Romans 14:18). Paul here advises a change of perspective. He says, in effect, Don't focus on living as close as you can to the boundary of unbridled liberty. Rather focus on maintaining peace with your brother/sister. Look for ways you can edify or build up (not stretch, shock, or offend) your fellow Christian.
Are we mature enough to be other-centered in these ways?
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to leave judging to You. May I be sensitive to the consciences of others. On the flip side of this coin, may I not be easily offended or tripped up by the liberties others take. Amen.
MORE: On maturity
"How often I have found that we grow to maturity not by doing what we like, but by doing what we should. How true it is that not every 'should' is a compulsion, and not every 'like' is a high morality and true freedom" - Karl Rahner .