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Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Romans 14

I have a way of being that gets me in to trouble from time to time. That way of being is that I try to love, value, and accept all people exactly where they are. I say try because I certainly don’t always live into that way of being.

“So how could such an approach get me into trouble? It sounds like a perfectly commendable way of being,” you might say.

Well, here’s how. Let’s say I’m around a group of folks who are very orthodox in their Christian beliefs and I mention I enjoy reading some of the works of John Shelby Spong or Marcus Borg. Folks in this camp tend to freak out and let me know these works are not acceptable and call my Christianity into question. Then, let’s say a few hours later, I’m moving in progressive circles and I mention that I’ve been touched by something I’ve read by Tony Campollo (a prominent evangelical who teaches at a Baptist seminary). My progressive cohorts often freak out every bit as much – sometimes going so far as to question my “progressive” credentials – because I read someone who has a different theological approach than they have. As someone who lives his spiritual life out of the boxes, this means I catch a lot of flack from those who live their lives inside boxes.

So where do I draw strength and encouragement during my sometimes controversial walk?

From the words of Paul, among other places. Today’s passage contains several tidbits that guide my approach to life. “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do,” Paul began. “And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with… treat them gently” (Romans 14:1 from The Message).

And later - “None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters [referring to the controversy over table practices]” (Romans 14:13 from The Message).

And – “So let’s agree to use all or energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words: don’t drag them down by finding fault” (Romans 14:19 from The Message).

And finally, the most critical words for me in my faith walk: “Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others” (Romans 14:22 from The Message).

So the next time you find yourself put off by something someone says or does, I would invite you to remember the spirit of these words. The most important thing is not to focus on other people’s faith and worry about whether or not it corresponds to yours; the most important thing is to focus on your own faith and put that faith into action!

Til next time…

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