We had someone who gave us a hard time every year about celebrating Christmas. He called our Christmas tree a “Baal pole of false worship,” reminded us Christ was not born in December, criticized the exchanging of gifts as pagan, and more. While not really hostile in tone, he was clearly standing in judgment of us without allowing us to follow our own conscience. Interestingly, now, years later, he and his wife go all out in celebrating Christmas.
Even in Paul’s day, there was a problem with believers attempting to force their opinions on others and standing in judgment of one another when their conclusions differed. We call these conclusions “opinions” and not “convictions” because there is a difference. One should only claim a conviction if it is clearly specified in Paul’s letters, widely seen by other believers, and void of cultural distinctions exclusive to Israel (such as the arranged marriage of Isaac and Rebecca). Otherwise, a conclusion is only an opinion. But even when one has a conviction from Paul’s epistles, it is vital to hold that belief in a proper way. It is only acceptable for us to stand in judgment of others who do not adhere to our standard when sin is involved. Paul warns, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master (the Lord) he standeth or falleth” (Romans 14:4). We are to respectfully “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (vs. 5). Just as we have liberty, others do too. “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth” (vs. 22). The matter is really between each individual and the Lord. Paul further demonstrates that the Lord grants latitude to believers. Examples include esteeming one day above another (vs. 5) and deciding what or how one eats (vs. 6). Rather than judging one another for holding a different position, the Lord would have us remember that each of us will stand before “the judgment seat of Christ” (vs. 10). Therefore, we must choose to be far more concerned that we not “put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (vs. 13), than that we stand in judgment or act condescendingly. Instead, we must demonstrate a gracious attitude, even when we disagree with another’s conclusion, especially on secondary, nonessential issues.
Have you struggled to graciously allow for a differing conclusion in another believer? Acknowledge this to the Lord, ask for His enablement, and, if needed, apologize to the one you’ve judged.
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