I don’t know how many times a day, I catch myself chastising one of my kids by saying things like, “Tessa, you need to stop talking to your brothers like that. You are not the mom.” “Ethan, you are not Ryan’s dad; you don’t get to speak to him like that.” “Ryan, you are not Tessa’s dad. You don’t get to command her what to do.” Do you see the repeated refrain. My children have to learn, they aren’t the parents. They are the kids.
Romans 14:4 was brought to my attention recently: “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.”
I know there are times in which we need to make a judgment that someone is doing something wrong and should be disciplined by the congregation or marked as in error. However, I just can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve responded to my brethren about something and God is in heaven saying, “Edwin, you don’t get to speak like that. You are not their God.”
Let’s help each other remember this.
Recently, someone introduced me to a video clip entitled “Four Yorkshiremen.” The video is of four apparently wealthy Englishmen reminiscing about the good ol’ days when they were poor. For a little over three minutes these men humorously one-up each other about how poor and miserable they were as children. They didn’t argue about who was wealthier. Rather, the point was seemingly that the one who had to overcome the most was really the best of the lot.
This video is played for laughs and it is very funny. However, it reminds me of a similar competition I’ve heard among Christians. We all know it would be bad to compete over who is the better Christian or who is spiritually the strongest. Instead, Christians sometimes get together and start talking about what they were like when they were sinners.
Don’t misunderstand me. I think it is great to lead with our weaknesses and be open and honest about where we’ve been and why we need a Savior in Jesus Christ. However, sometimes I’ve seen these conversations seemingly get off into a competition about who had to overcome the worst enslavement to sin. The problem is these penitent Christians almost sound proud of how sinful they had been. Have you ever heard folks get into that kind of conversation? Have you ever been involved in that kind of conversation? It is almost as if we have to prove to everybody that we were the worst and not in the humble way with which Paul claimed to be the chief of sinners (I Timothy 1:15). In that passage, Paul was actually giving glory to God about how much forgiveness God had. He was not bragging about how bad he had been and how much he had to overcome.
If you’ve never been in on this kind of conversation, you can ignore this article. However, if you have, allow me to offer you something to think about. When we are truly penitent of our sins, mourning for what we’ve done (II Corinthians 7:10), there will be no part of us that wants to brag or prove we were the greater sinner. The fact is, just like those four Yorkshiremen, all this does is give us some kind of backdoor pass to bragging about our spirituality. We aren’t bragging about how spiritual we are now, but we are bragging about how we had to overcome more and therefore are more spiritual.
As we share the gospel with others, we may share the sins from which God set us free. As we strive to overcome sin, we will most certainly confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). As we glorify God, we may admit the sins over which we were powerless and from which God freed us. However, we’ll never have the desire to prove we are the best because we were the worst. We’ll never take pride in how awful we were. We’ll never purposefully try to one-up each other in our past sinfulness. We won’t feel the need to prove anything about our spirituality. We’ll simply be thankful God forgave us. Let’s keep it there.
The Apostle Paul instructed the church at Corinth to “not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking, be mature” (I Corinthians 14:20, NASB). As Christians, we should not have evil desires or wrong motives, but be wise and unselfish.
In my 51 years on this earth, I’ve seen too much discord, often born out of selfish ambition, sown in the church by so called Christians. There are people who have become spiritually arrogant, thinking they are more “spiritually minded” than others. They often place men’s writings ahead of and/or in place of God’s inspired word. I have many excellent books written by human beings, but they need to be read in the proper perspective, as written by men who are uninspired and have flaws.
Paul said in I Corinthians 1:20 (NASB), “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than man” (I Corinthians 1:25, NASB). Humanly devised philosophical systems are meaningless because they many times have the wrong concept of God and His revelation. This has caused many a man’s downfall and leads to sin, especially discord generated in the church.
God lists 7 things that he hates in Proverbs 6:16-19; the last is “one who spreads strife among brothers.” I’ve seen more division in the church caused by contentious people who want to control a congregation than caused by false doctrine. Paul warned the Ephesian Elders about this in Acts 20:27-30 when he told them that in their own congregation, “men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves.”
This is sad, but so true because you see groups of people following men, starting other congregations where sound congregations already exist, in order to have control and do things their way. This might not be sinful in and of itself, but their motives in changing things because it becomes their idea is wrong.
The church at Corinth had more problems than any congregation on earth; they were told to work out their problems God’s way. Paul describes the attributes of Love in I Corinthians 13, which should be our standard of conduct in every situation in life. Let our lives be filled with the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23 and crucify the flesh with its passions and desires as the peerless Apostle Paul stated. Only then will we live a productive life in the service for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and be the “salt of the earth.”