Week of June 2

Living Daily with “Thus” in Mind

Read: Proverbs 22-24; Romans 14
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
Romans 14:19, ESV


We should live with “thus” in mind. I open this devotional with one single word that Paul writes in Romans 14, verse 18. We all know the importance of serving Christ, but we all too often attempt a vice-like control over those to whom we offer our service. Plainly, we need to consider the hard truth that we may be determining the way we want to live the Cross-life! Paul writes “whoever thus serves Christ” to mean that a serious believer is willing to lay aside personal freedoms in Christ to quell conflict and to strengthen another believer (14:18). Let’s look more carefully at Paul’s point today.

The Meaning of the Text

The ethics of daily Christian living
Paul lays before the Romans a careful discussion of applied ethics, where he calls those Christians to consider the spiritual needs of those who have weaker consciences as they relate to dietary practices (cf. also 1 Corinthians 8). Some folks had consciences that would not allow them to enjoy the full range of Christian liberty that they enjoyed in Christ. Still others felt entirely at liberty to “eat anything” (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3, 4). The point was not doctrine, but diet (cf. 14:23). The moral focus was the possibility that such differences in opinions could lead to judgmentalism and disagreement (cf. 14:1-4). Koinonia was threatened!
Framing our moral decisions to honor Christ
I teach my family, seminary students, and Christian laity to frame moral choices with four core values: respect every human life, use our freedom wisely, seek to act rightly, and treat others fairly. The single nail upon which this way to make simple moral choices hangs is love—for Christ and for one’s neighbor (see Romans 13:8-12).
Fellowship with other believers should be rooted in respect for the sacredness of their lives (14:15, “if your brother is grieved”). I realize that we are rightly focused on the sacredness of life as it relates to the unborn, but Paul teaches us not to neglect the human lives all around us! Their lives are sacred too.
Secondly, we should not weaponize our liberty because we will likely wound others (14:13, “never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother”). Too often believers behave without awareness of those around them. What they do and say may turn others away from the Christ’s way.

Thirdly, whether it is our diet, or, for example, special days set aside for fasting, we need to make sure that we are “fully convinced” of the “rightness” of this action. There are some things that my Christian conscience simply will not allow me to do, so I do not engage in those things, even though they are fully permitted to others. Regardless, we need to make sure, in our certitude, that we are motivated to honor the Lord (14:5-6).
Fourthly, we want to treat others fairly (14:19, “mutual upbuilding”). The entire church should pursue that which enhances the peace of and builds community.
I am humbled by Paul’s words, and I hope that you are as well. However, we may be tempted to think that super-spiritual Paul could attain to this level of sacrifice, while we are only ordinary Christians and will not be able to do so.

The Message for Your Heart

When I was a lad, my neighborhood friends and I would occasionally have some disagreement that led to words like, “Get off my property!” We would stand on an imaginary dividing line between our backyards and yell at one another to stay away. Of course, it was not “our” property, nor did we have authority to require the other to do anything. And besides, we were more like brothers than enemies. I would take my anger indoors and my parents would gently remind me that the persons with whom I had argued were my neighbor and that they deserved to be treated in a Christlike fashion.
Their appeal to my Christian commitment was on target. They wanted the Holy Spirit to work through my life in ways that uplifted others and spread the peace of Christ. Paul has called us to allow others to benefit from the fruit of the Spirit already evident in our lives. He calls on us to walk in love, to spread peace, to exercise self-control, and be filled with joy (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)! I’d say we all may begin this moment to make available to others the fruit we bear in our Christian walks.

For Thought and Action

1. Write down two or three Christian freedoms you enjoy. Ponder ways they may grieve other believers and cause you not to walk in love. Determine not to hinder the fellowship with your freedoms.
2. Write down two or three ways that you have judged others who are exercising their freedom in Christ. Seek God’s forgiveness for such a spirit.
3. For Families: As the summer begins, we are mindful that the children will be home each day and they will most likely be adjusting to being with each other more. Sometimes that “closeness” breaks out in arguments and bickering!

Paul’s message to our kids in this devotional is simple. We are wise when we care about each other and help weaker ones grow. When the fruit of the Spirit develops in our lives, people will see Jesus in us.

Some morning soon, as your kids are eating breakfast, click on this Bible story about the Fruit of the Spirit: Fruit of the Spirit Story. Once they have been reminded of this truth, click here to let them learn a new song to sing about this wonderful fruit! We are praying for you and your children this summer as you practice living the Fruit together!

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock