Weekly Scripture: Romans 14:1-12
God desires a personal relationship with each one of us and we do a good job of emphasizing this in the Church. However, we neglect to emphasize the communal aspects of our faith as strongly as the personal aspects. Salvation and the Kingdom of God extend beyond our own experiences of these realities. We share them with God and with all of creation. Because of this, we have a responsibility to support the faith of others and live in union and peace with God’s children. Like the men in the image above, we are called to help our brothers and sisters reach the heights of spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ. When has someone offered you spiritual support that lifted you toward God? In what ways have your actions and attitudes supported the faith of others?
Sometimes offering spiritual support means that we give up our rights and liberty so that others might experience the goodness of God. While our culture is chiefly concerned with personal rights, the kingdom of God is built upon our personal responsibility toward God and others. Christ has freed us from sin and death so that we might both personally enjoy the goodness of God and encourage that experience universally. As Martin Luther once wrote, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” Luther was pointing out that while we are free from sin and death, we are bound in gracious service to our fellow humanity. In what ways has Christ given you freedom? In what ways has Christ called you to be accountable to others?
In our Scripture for this week Paul is dealing specifically with the practice of eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. It might seem silly to us, but this was a real issue in the 1st-century Church. Although Paul recognized that there is ultimately nothing wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols – since idols are not real, but only wooden and metal manifestations of false hopes and beliefs – not all Christians felt that it was a benign practice. Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to defer to the sensibilities of the other in order to care for their soul as a loving brother or sister. Our liberty is never more important than the care of God’s children. When have you had to sacrifice a personal right in order to care for someone else?
Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul warns us against allowing our personal expression of freedom to devolve into license. Every experience is not uplifting, beneficial, or life-giving. We should instead use our freedom to promote the freedom of others. It is like the instructions we are given on an airplane, in which we are told to put on our oxygen mask before helping others put their oxygen mask on in the event of an emergency. We can only help others if we are breathing freely. Once you have experienced the freedom of Christ, you are free to proclaim and advocate for spiritual release for others. In what ways might you promote the freedom of Christ in the lives of others? Remember that “we do not live to ourselves.” Our lives are forever linked to the life of God and the wellbeing of the world.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, set us free.