Sometimes the hardest people to get along with are the ones we’re most similar to, right? It’s almost like there’s an invisible competition we sense within ourselves with the people we’re most alike, especially when our opinions clash. Without realizing it, we can put ourselves in a position of judgment over others who don’t believe the same things we do. We’ve all been there – so join us for this Sunday’s message as we take the journey together toward loving and accepting others we disagree with, just like Jesus does with us.
1. Don’t be judgy.
- In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul addresses issues that were huge for the Roman church and are for us today as well: namely, judgment versus acceptance. It doesn’t take much to know, the western church is stereotyped as being judgmental. It’s all too easy for us to get caught up in the ways in which we’re different, rather than focusing on the ways we’re the same. Most of the time, we probably don’t think of ourselves as judgmental – that’s just certain outspoken Christians, but not us. The truth is, all of us can judge others at different points. Sometimes it’s not even people who don’t know Jesus; sometimes we judge our brothers and sisters who believe slightly differently than we do.
- The point Paul wants to raise in this chapter is that we can let God be the judge of all people. Our only job is to love others.
What is one time you handled an interaction poorly and were judgmental of someone who believed differently from you? How would you do things differently if you could re-do that conversation?
2. Make space for opposing opinions.
- As we follow Jesus, there are essential and non-essential beliefs to hold. Of course, an “essential” belief would be that Jesus died and rose again to redeem us from our sins, for eternal life with him. In Paul’s day, a “non-essential” belief was whether to eat meat that had been first sacrificed to an idol and then sold in the marketplace. According to Paul, followers of Jesus could eat such meat because idols aren’t actually gods with power – so why did it matter? The only time behavior like that became sin is if one person’s choice to eat this meat caused another person with different convictions to compromise how they felt called to live. It’s similar to drinking alcohol and inviting along someone with a history of alcohol abuse. Is alcohol inherently sinful? No. But if we are “helping” someone else compromise their convictions for the sake of exercising our freedom, that is sin.
- A mark of spiritual maturity is to work toward unity among the body of Christ even when we don’t agree on everything. In fact, our ability to embrace others who are different from us is a mark of Jesus being at work in our lives.
Since our spiritual growth is tied to loving people who are different from us, what would it look like to not just be non-judgmental, but to go a step further and proactively love someone you disagree with? How can you work for unity even where there’s a diversity of opinion?
3. Remember the Gospel.
- We judge people when we forget the gospel – because the gospel reminds us we’re all imperfect people in need of a perfect savior.
- Jesus loves and accepts people just as they are. He doesn’t say, “Fix everything, and then come to me.” He says, “Come to me, and we’ll fix things.” When we trust Jesus to work in people’s lives and change them for the better, we can remember that we don’t have to. We can extend grace to others, knowing we need Jesus just as desperately, and we’re all in process with him.
Describe a time you felt like you really understood the Gospel on a personal level. When did you see God’s grace played out in your life in an amazing way? How can you capture that same sense of wonder and bring it into your life now?
Optional Follow-up Questions
- What makes you say that?
- How do you feel about that?
- How would you explain your answer to a non-Christian friend or neighbor?
- Why did God design it to work that way? Why not just do (whatever else) instead?
- What would you say to someone who disagrees with that?
- Why do we really have to do it like that? Why can’t we just go (some other route) instead?