Bible Study: Acceptance and unity among believers
NASHVILLE (BP) -- This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, LifeWay publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.
Bible Passage: Romans 14:1-19
-- When have you struggled to be accepted by others? How easily do you accept others into your world?
-- What unintended damage can criticism, judgment and arguments create? How can you apply Paul's guidance in your context?
-- In light of these verses, what is our responsibility when it comes to building peace among Christ followers? How can that affect the way the world views our faith?
Food for Thought:
One of the greatest battles of the Civil War was not fought with cannons or muskets. It was the moral and ideological battle to accept black soldiers into the Union army. Advocates such as Frederick Douglass kept up the pressure as reluctant Northerners dragged their feet. Meanwhile, Southern leaders issued threats about how they would treat black prisoners of war.
Eventually doors opened and African American soldiers helped the Union win the war. Sometimes, acceptance requires patience and hard work. But in the church, acceptance should be a natural reaction toward brothers and sisters in Christ.
Read Romans 14:1-4. In the opening verses of Romans 14, Paul addressed the importance of peaceful relationships within the church. Apparently, two primary groups were being created based on backgrounds and personal preferences. The first group included those who were strong in their faith. These were the believers (probably Gentiles) who completely embraced their newfound freedom in Christ. They weren't worried about rituals and restrictions. They were completely comfortable depending on grace.
The second group included the ones Paul called weak. These were probably Jewish converts who had been raised to honor things like holy days and special diets. Once they put their faith in Jesus, they struggled to completely let go of those parts of their faith.
Paul made it clear that the real problem was not that one group was weak and another was stronger. The problem was the criticism each group leveled toward the other. Those who could eat anything were looking down on those who would not. And those who observed special days were judging those who didn't.
The Roman believers were arguing over petty things. They weren't debating the essentials of the Gospel or salvation. They were arguing about foods and festivals. Those in the "strong" group were far from perfect, and those who were weak were just as saved as any other Christian. It was simply a matter of spiritual maturity and freedom.
Paul reminded them that they served one Master -- Jesus. Neither group had a right to criticize the other because they were all working toward the same goal. They were members of the same team, so they needed to learn how to love and accept one another, regardless of the differences.
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