How Do You View Others?
[Slightly modified from an article first published in Christianity Magazine, February 1988.]
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).
The fourteenth chapter of Romans was written to produce unity, yet it has often been a source of division and conflict. It is a chapter that presents difficulties to most (and this writer is no exception), but we may find it easier to unravel some of its difficulties if we first learn to view one another as Paul suggests?
Consider the five views of others presented in Romans 14:1—15:7. They are: (1) “another’s servant”, 14:4; (2) “your brother”, 14:10,13,15,21; (3) “the one for whom Christ died”, 14:15; (4) “the work of God”, 14:20; and (5) “his neighbor”, 15:2.
Matters relating to unity are important, for not only did the Psalmist commend unity as good and pleasant, but our Lord prayed that His disciples would be one (John 17:20-21). Christians should deplore division, desire unity and, in doing so, realize that we would be spared much of the feuding and fussing that goes on in local churches if we viewed one another as this section of Scripture directs. We are more likely to understand the passage better when we learn to understand one another better.
When dealing with others in the local congregation, we are to view them as our neighbors whom we seek to please. In applying Romans 14:1—15:7, we must seek the edification and strengthening of our neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) should challenge us to be merciful in our dealings with one another. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
Have we developed a sense of family in the local church? Though the comparison of fellow-Christians to earthly brothers and sisters is frequently made in the Scriptures, we often fail to develop a true sense of family within the congregation. We are to make “Brother” and “Sister” more than empty titles; they must become expressions of genuine feelings for one another. “Let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1).
When making application of Romans 14, we must realize that the Scriptures require discipline of wayward members and not contradict those passages requiring disciplinary action; but we must also avoid “judging another’s servant” (Romans 14:4). Never forget that your fellow-Christian belongs not to you, but to Christ. The Lord will judge His servants; we must make only those judgments He has commanded. “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged…” (Matthew 7:2).
Have we ever treated a brother in a shameful, unloving manner when Christ loved this same brother enough to die for him? It is essential that each member of this or any congregation seeking to please Christ deal with the other members as though they were valuable—so valuable the Son of God would die for them! If the Eternal One would die for this person, surely we can cast aside selfishness and go that second mile to make peace. “And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Finally, we must not forget that our brother is the work of God. How dreadful it would be to discover, as did Saul of Tarsus, that we have been guilty of working against God. The Lord God is working for the salvation of our brethren—what is it that we are working toward? As we seek to apply difficult passages such as Romans 14, let us be certain that it is God’s work we seek to further and not our own pride and position. “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Corinthians 12:15).
Love must not become an excuse for failing to reprove and rebuke, for love never eliminates the need for discipline (2 Timothy 4:2; Proverbs 13:24). Love should not lack backbone, but brethren cannot justify a bitter spirit and lack of brotherly love by referring to such conduct as “contending for the faith.” Let us view one another as the apostle has taught us to do.
“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).
All Scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, copyright 1994.