This is a meditation for those taking the Epiphany Wisdom 2021 message from Pastor Theresa to heart and “practicing your thinking” in order to bring Jesus centered outcomes your life.
Read the following refresher on what it takes to build solid relationships from Romans 14:1-23, via The Message paraphrase.
Cultivating Good Relationships
14 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
5 Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
“every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God.”
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.
19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.
IT IS IN PLEASING THE GOD ABOVE YOU THAT YOU PROVE YOUR WORTH, NOT PLEASING THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
Bringing the same animosity you held in 2020 along with you to 2021 is not going to make your year better, or anyone’s better for that matter. We are challenged to go deeper, to love harder, and to put down the contempt and walk away in favor of picking up the love and sharing it with everyone, especially those you don’t agree with.
Did Jesus agree with everyone he served? Remember that upper room folks. That example cannot go unexamined. That Jesus washed the feet, broke and blessed bread and wine and shared it with every one of the 12 around the same table, each with their own brand of sin including Judas Ischariot, MUST TELL US SOMETHING. And we must not miss it. Who do we, as Jesus followers, serve?
A CHALLENGE FOR THE CHRIST-LIKE PEACEMAKER
Jesus example of peacemaking never made him into a wise cracker, jabbing the misled who are desperately in need of God just to get a laugh from his buddies. No. He was the holy kind of mature one in the room who understood there is no peace to gain that way, nor by lecturing from a standpoint of “I’m so much smarter than you, so much better than you, so much morally upright than you are.” His words were meant not only to correct, but to nurture. To encourage. To give hope, peace, joy and love.
Watch and see how others are responding to the world today. Do their words and actions come from a heart filled with Christ which is best described as a heart so filled with love there is NO ROOM FOR HATE? Or do their words come from their head, rationalizing like the world does. “It’s just a joke.” “They had it coming.” “Screw em if they can’t take a joke.” “I’m just saying what everyone with half a brain thinks and I don’t care who likes it.”
We are the peacemakers. We listen to the hurt and concerns of others and we admit that our experience isn’t their experience and sometimes we need to love more deeply in order to love them right.
“Bridges that work never make the news.” We are willing to be the one others look at and laugh at and say, “she’s kidding herself if she thinks that talking to them is going to make any difference because they’re just a buncha (fill in the blank), she’s probably one of them too”. The haters can’t build bridges that work because they’ll never reach the other side.
Peacemakers know a bridge that doesn’t reach and firmly connect with the other side will not work. Unity cannot be legislated or bullied. Therefore, we are the ones responsible to walk, and build, a different way.
Peacemakers must put away the hostility and contempt before they may pick up the cross and follow Jesus. It’s the only way He can work on and through you.
This is not debatable. Humility is required.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”James 4:10 NRSV
Meditation Closing Prayer for Humility
Our Heavenly Father,
Today we ask for Your help to walk humbly with our brothers and sisters. It is all too easy for us to fall prey to our flesh and to walk in arrogance, but pride causes division and we desire peace. Lord, help us to humble ourselves in order that we do not let the lies of the enemy overtake us, rather, help us to count ourselves as equals with one another. It is then that we will stop attempting to be better than others, and we can love their hearts for the unique person You made them to be. Help us to value one another in this humble spirit so that we may live to the fullest.
In Jesus name, Amen