Updated: Jan 28
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
In all the readings possible to be read and sermonized today, this reading is the one most pliable to meet the needs of … as Paul wrote … “those who are weak in faith.” This means understanding Paul’s audience is necessary.
I watched a Baptist preach last Sunday morning on television. He read a verse from Romans and made a point of reminding everyone that “some scholars question if Paul wrote this epistle.” He said, “sure sounds like Paul,” after he read the verse [about being content with what you have]. I agree with the brother Baptist.
Paul was writing to Jews in Rome [whether dictated or passed on to someone who visited him, for him to remember – divinely – and write it down, it does not matter to those strong of faith]. The Jews of Rome represented a subclass of humanity, slaves living in the equivalent of slums, and the Christian movement – those truly filled with the Holy Spirit, reborn as Jesus Christ – brought forth those who were seen as even lower on this scale of worthlessness [in the eyes of the Roman elite]. There might have been some Gentile slaves from elsewhere around the city that had converted and relocated to where the Christians lived, but Jews cloister because they do not mix with non-Jews.
Paul asked those who were strong in faith [the true Christians] to accept those Jews who believed in the same God, but struggled greatly with understanding their Scripture. Thus, some could quibble over such meaningless things as figuring out what God wants Jews to eat. When Paul wrote, “for God has welcomed them,” the meaning says “Jews have received Yahweh as their lone God.” Paul was not making some political statement that God created all human beings on earth, even the heinous criminals and violent sinners, so God does not want anyone to not welcome those who are evil into their midst. Only those of no faith would think that; and those are called wolves in sheep’s clothing.
This means Paul was writing to the Christian-Jews of Rome, telling them his wisdom [from God, as Christ reborn] was to pull together and help each other find deeper faith. Judgement is for God to make, and some Jews will balk at being told to think differently about lessons taught to them by their family members. At one point, everyone was a Jew, thinking pretty much the same at some point in their lives, before God took up residence in the hearts of true Christians, with His Son running all the thinking parts of their bodies.
In terms of Christianity today, where there is a plethora of denominations, with some so far out on the edge that they barely qualify as religions, much less Christian, the food becomes the commonality of Scripture. Some only want to eat meme verses. Some want to stay away from the Jewish Testament. Some want to only eat the food that makes them stronger. The message of Paul is for those who are truly reborn as Jesus Christ to welcome those who claim to be ‘Christian’ without complaint. A true Christian is not a member of some brand of religion, because a true Christian is Jesus Christ resurrected, in communication with God the Father, becoming a burning light that will attract the weak seekers to it.
The danger that can come from this reading is it can very easily be politicized by priests that are like those Jews of Rome that Paul said to welcome. Probably, there were those who made suggestions to the impoverished, “Rise and kill the Romans! God will be on our side!” Most assuredly, all the young [thus still strong] Jews were easily inspired by that message; and the young Jews were ready, willing, and able to die trying to right some natural form of injustice that always has been, and always will be, in a world filled with sin and sinners. Probably, those who spoke the most moving vitriol that got the youngsters all riled up were old Jews, those too weak to do more than talk and plot.
If organizations are doing that today, then the same can be known to have gone on then. I imagine Rome was a filthy place two thousand years ago, especially in the ghettos. The United States of America might be cleaner in looks, because it is newer, but the same evil hearts have always existed. Protesting and complaining has long been an identifying characteristic of the Jewish race.
Paul was telling all Jews and Christians to stop the insanity of trying to physically defeat a machine that was too much to tackle. At that time, the Romans were rounding up the Jews and Christians and giving them an outlet for proving how great their God was, setting them free to demonstrate that excellence in the arena, against some wild, hungry beasts. Supposedly, Nero was known to light his garden walk paths with the burning bodies of Jews and Christians on stakes. So, when Paul advised the faithful, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s,” that was a powerful statement about not judging the Romans for being Romans. Evil will always exist in the world. It just goes by many different names.
When Paul then added, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living,” he spoke from experience. Saul had been a “dead man walking,” as a Jew persecuting Christians. Paul became the resurrection of Jesus Christ, so he was still walking around in a body that was going to die (to be beheaded, as a Roman citizen), but as a true Christian he was living with the eternal promise of life everlasting. Everyone Paul wrote to (even readers today) has the same opportunity to be “both the dead and the living,” possessed by the Holy Spirit and reborn into the life of Jesus Christ.
When Paul asked why some Jews would cast judgment on Christians and why some Christians despise Jews for their hatred, he told it like it is: “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God.”
In the United States of America currently there is a strong Roman presence, as if a million little Nero reincarnations want to set fire to all who would stand in the way of their complete destruction of a way of life that once was proud to say “In God We Trust.” Judgement is cast condemningly on the police, as if protesters have some immunity from being treated like criminals, even while caught in criminal acts. Priests have come out publicly as being for racist, anarchist, and violence urging organizations … sounding just like the old Jews that wanted the youth to overthrow an empire.
Nowhere within the Episcopal Church do I see priests preaching to the multitude: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
I hear no one saying, “We are all accountable to the Lord, so Christians need to embrace Christians, whether one Christian says abstain from wearing masks, while another Christian says social distancing and wearing masks must be done in all public gatherings.”
Instead of preaching the meaning of Scripture – fully and completely like Apostles reborn with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, I watch Facebook sermons done by priests who give the impression they think: “Doctor Fauci lives, says the governor of my state, every face shall bow to expert opinion about a virus that cannot be seen, and every tongue shall give praise to the CDC for protecting us.”
So much for “In God We Trust.”
R. T. Tippett