I Do It My Way!

SermonBible Readings for the day: Proverbs 18:17-19:2, Romans 14:1-18, 1 Chronicles 9:1b-10:14
Meditational Reading: Romans 14:1-4 and 13-15
1  As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.
2  One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
3  Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
4  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

13  Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
14  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
15  For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

As I read today’s New Testament reading, Frank Sinatra’s song, “I Did It My Way,” popped into my head.  I was ready to change the title and lyrics to, “I Want It My Way.”  Then I also thought of “I Do It My Way.”  No matter how you slice it and dice it, today’s New Testament (and meditational) reading deals with how we choose to use our Christian liberty.

We have a hard time understanding the point Paul makes in the reading.  We have a hard time because we have supermarkets and butchers and delis.  If I want a steak (if I could afford a steak) all I have to do is go to the local grocery story, go to the meat section, and buy my steak (if I can afford it).  It’s a simple cash transaction.  The first century Christians did not have that luxury.  The vast majority of meat sales were attached to the local temples of the false gods.  These cuts of meat had been offered to the false gods in sacrifice, eating that meat was considered an act of worship to the false gods.

In the early church there were people who knew that false gods were nothing; they weren’t really gods at all.  Because they did not worship the false gods, they (rightly) believed that all they were doing was eating a nice, juicy steak and nothing more.  There were other Christians, maybe new to the faith, who could not separate the act of eating from the act of worship.  They believed that if they ate that steak, they were worshiping the false gods so they abstained from eating meat.  Which one is right?  According to Paul, both are right!  And both have obligations to one another (as we see in verses 1-4).  The meat eater doesn’t take on an air of spiritual superiority and look down on the vegetarian brother.  The vegetarian doesn’t take of an air of spiritual superiority and condemn the meat eater as a pagan, reveling in pagan worship.  They had the freedom to either eat meat or not eat meat.  Both were right and neither was wrong.

But in the second set of meditational verses, Paul addresses the meat eaters as being mature in the faith.  Yes, the meat eaters are totally free, in the Lord, to eat their steaks.  They can revel in their Christian freedom.  They can “Do It Their Way”!  But what if their Christian freedom hurts the faith of a less mature believer?  What happens if a less mature believer sees their actions, thinks it’s alright to worship false gods, and then falls from the true faith?  What happens then?

Paul is to the point:

  • I have the total freedom to keep eating meat.  Jesus, himself, gives me that freedom.
  • If my meat eating injures the faith of another believer then, in total Christian freedom, I will chose not to eat meat.  Not because eating meat is wrong, but because I don’t want to harm the faith of another believer.

In theological talk, we are speaking of an adiaphoron (singular).  Adiaphora (plural) are things of spiritual indifference.  They are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture (the Bible) and the individual believer has the choice of engaging in the activity or not.  Make one thing clear:  Adiaphora are not matters of sin.  Sin is something we do in disobeying something commanded or forbidden in Scripture.  I have total freedom in matters of adiaphora.

Do you like traditional worship or contemporary worship?  Worship styles are an adiaphoron.  God doesn’t tell us how to worship; he doesn’t tell us which instruments (if any) to use; he doesn’t tell us which songs to sing; he doesn’t forbid the use of electric guitars and drums (he doesn’t command their use either!).  If I like contemporary worship, I won’t look down on traditional worship types as old fuddy duddies.  If I like traditional worship, I won’t look down on contemporary worshipers as troglodytes, getting ready to tear down the very Church of God.  I can “do it either way” and be totally correct in God’s eyes.

My problem, rooted in my sin nature which still clings to me, is that “I Want It My Way!”  I will even try to find theological justification (something in God’s Word) to “Do It My Way.”  When I look at my brother or sister for whom Jesus died and I say or think, “I don’t care about them.  I care about me and what I want,”  then I have sinned because I am acting out of lovelessness.  Yes, I will set aside my Christian freedom to help someone else who does not share in my Christian freedom.  I will treat them just as Jesus treats me, in love, the love of Jesus which sets me free to serve my brothers and sisters in faith.

Well, I could go on and on and on.  But I think it’s time to stop.

To summarize:

  • In Christ I have total and complete freedom to do what I want in matters where God’s Word is silent (adiaphora).
  • I exercise true Christian freedom by willingly setting aside my freedom for the sake of a weaker brother or sister in faith.
  • True freedom:  Doing It Jesus’ Way!  Amen!

Should you wish to access Pastor Kerner’s sermon archive, you can do so at https://gslcsuffield.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/sermon-archive-2010-2011/

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 585 South St. (Route 75), Suffield CT 06078 USA  http://www.gslcsuffield.com  Should you wish to support this ministry, you can mail a check to the church.

If you liked this post in any way, please think about sharing it on your social media sites.  This is an effective way to evangelize on the internet.  You can also friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.kerner

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