Paul continues his theme of chapter 14 - dividing over debatables...how to live out your convictions in the gray areas of life without judging others or causing them to stumble in their own walk.
Along with having convictions, we must have a conscience, and now we add to that 'consideration.' [True tolerance in the biblical sense]
These verses call on us to be tolerant to others who may not dot every 'i' or cross every 't' exactly as we do. Let's be clear: It's not talking about tolerating sin or a false gospel. That's compromise.
16:17 - mark and avoid them
Christian consideration is being lovingly patient with those with whom we differ in the gray areas.
Investigate church splits, and you'll find that most don't occur over matters of the essentials, but the petty.
In essentials-unity. In non-essentials-liberty. In all things-charity.
1. The Duty of Christian Consideration. [2. beauty 3. unity]
v. 1 'we ought to'
'infirmities' isn't a reference to physical problems. It's talking about their weak areas. It's a stronger brother helping a weaker one. It's giving up your rights to meat so as not to offend or cause to stumble them that believe it is wrong to eat it.
ill.--I love southern gospel music. I have good friends who do not. And I respect that when they are in my car or our home.
It is not hypocritical to lay aside your rights in order not to offend...it's Biblical!
v. 1 'bear' is the same word used for Jesus bearing His cross...it's a call to the crucified life! Jesus bore that cross, not to please Himself, but His Father, and to save us children!
'not to please ourselves'. Let's be honest. We live our lives to please ourselves. Every day and in every way we are seeking our own happiness, and not others. We come to church hoping that it blesses us. We want the music to be the way we like it, and the temperature, and the sermon, and the people we sit with, and what they are serving at the meal, etc.
So we are to live a crucified life.
Also, a constructive life.
v. 2 'edify' is an architectural term meaning 'to build up.' When we come into contact with other believers we WILL have one of two effects on them: 1. Build them up. 2. Tear them down. [stumbling block or stepping stone]
Our passage says that one way to build up others is to give up our own rights.
ill.--I was an only child for 7.5 years. When my little sister came along, everything changed. I had to put away knives and drinks, and couldn't throw things in the house. Once she was walking she would follow me. Me and my friends loved to play ball in the street. Mom said we had to play in the yard. I said, mom, we know when a car is coming, and we get out of the way. She said, yes, but your sister sees you, and she will follow and get hit, and then we'll have to kill you!
I was the strong, and had to give up something for the sake of the weak. It's not about what is fair, it's about what is RIGHT.
We must live the crucified, constructive life...it's the duty of Christian Consideration.
2. The Beauty of Christian Consideration.
v. 3 The first phrase is the beauty of it all! It is a beautiful example for us all. Jesus was God in the flesh, and had every right to do what He wanted, but said things like:
"I come not to do my own will, but my Father's"
"I do always those things which please Him."
He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister...
Next in v. 3 is a quote from Psalm 69:9
For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.
Turn to Psalm 69. vv. 7-8 show the home life of Jesus...some of His own family rejected Him.
v. 11 'proverb' = 'joke'
Most never believed that He was truly born of a virgin. But that story had to have gone everywhere and the cloud of illegitimacy hung over His head all His life. Was He called a 'bastard'?
v. 12 The city officials and upper echelon were against Him. Some said He was possessed by demons or called Him a drunk or a crazy person. The end of the verse suggests that they made up songs about Him, making fun of Him.
Do you think you've ever been slandered? You've never been slandered like Jesus was! [gossiped about / mistreated / hated?]
Paul quotes Psalm 69 to say that if the Lord could bear all of this for us, then why can't we give up something for our brethren?
The question we should ask ourselves is not, is [blank] wrong? Rather, it is, Would I be willing to lay this aside to not offend another?
This is the example of the Savior.
We also have the encouragement of Scripture.
Rom. 15:4 I realize we get impatient with others. Older folks who are slower. Young ones who don't seem to grow up fast enough. How about Christians who don't mature on the schedule we think they should?
As long as we have our eyes on them we are going nowhere ourselves. And if you think back, there have been many who must have been patient and considerate with you, so now do likewise.
Christian Consideration is our duty [crucified/constructive living]
There's a beauty to it.
3. The Unity of Christian Consideration.
vv. 5-7 Why focus so much on unity? Because when we don't agree, our tendency is to split. Either we split the church, or we up and split ourselves, and go somewhere else. [hopping]
ill.--we could take everyone in the church who believes exactly the same way and let them start their own churches. Do you like that plan? Any problem with it?
You won't find any 2 people in the room who agree to that degree. But what if you did? What if we were able to start "Stronger Brethren Baptist" and "Weaker Brethren Baptist" down the road? It's only a matter of time before the folks in either of those start to disagree, and have to split and start two new churches! And in just a short span it will be just you and your wife, and in a matter of months she'll kick you out!
So if that plan isn't the answer, what is? Christian tolerance and consideration! It provides unity.
We must be unified around something.
v. 5 'likeminded' = to think the same thing, or have the same purpose. If we can unite behind some purpose that is crucially important, then all the gray areas will pale by comparison. Is there not a cause?
vv. 5b It's Jesus!
You show me a church bickering over petty things and I'll show you a church that lost the big picture of Jesus, His gospel, and winning souls!
Fighting, fussing, and feuding over peripheral issues goes hand in hand with losing our purpose and accomplishing nothing.
ill.--Deer Season. I'm amazed at what some will endure for the great purpose of getting a deer. Get up early. Endure cold. Sit in silence. Be rained on. Spray self w/ deer urine. Sleep on the ground or in a tree. Why? He's got a great purpose: Get that deer!
You can always tell who is a serious hunter by how little they complain about the inconveniences. And in a church, if you have your eye on the ball, you don't sweat the small stuff!
And when you have unity of purpose, what happens?
v. 6 You have unity of praise. Your eyes are not on pleasing self, but pleasing God!
Unity of purpose leads to unity of praise.
v. 7 Unity of the people! It comes by way of tolerance/consideration.
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