“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin,” (Romans 14:19-23).
What is the “most excellent way”? We often read from the Corinthian passage above (especially at weddings) because we love the accurate and incredible description of love –the love that God alone can give us, known as “agape” (Gk. ah-gah-pey) love. But we may not often remember that this passage in 1 Corinthians is expressed right from the Father’s heart because His children are seriously in error. The Corinthian Christians needed to be shown the “most excellent way” because they were certainly not behaving “most excellently,” but rather selfishly, conceitedly and foolishly; many Corinthians Christians wanted to boast of their Christian abilities and draw attention to themselves. The Romans passage quoted above refers to another, though similar situation in the Roman church where the Roman Christians arrogantly tried to force their views on “disputable matters” on one another –which was actually destroying the faith of weaker Christians. Now, just pause for a moment and consider that thought: Christians… were destroying the faith… of other Christians. Sometimes it is difficult to tell a Christian, who has failed to mature in the faith, apart from a non-Christian, and all the world (which is in need of salvation) says, “Amen.”
There is a common goal in the teaching of both of the passages mentioned above: edification. The word edification in the Bible is (Gk.) oikodome (oy-kod-om-ay) which comes from two root words: Oikos (house) and demo (to build). When we edify one another, we are building God’s house. Edification is very important to God. He wants His children to remain His children so that their hearts are not taken captive by the evil one. This is one reason that Church is very important: The Church is an oasis of encouragement in a desert of despair. When the Church operates as God intended, we edify one another, obeying Him and thereby proving our love for one another and for Him (John 13:34-35, John 14:15). Unfortunately, in both the churches of Corinth and Rome, immature Christians were actively working (though probably unintentionally) to tear other Christians down rather than build them up. Who would seriously want to be a member of a church where Christian are always (directly or indirectly) beating up on one another? In the Roman church, Christians were beating one another up over different view of what a Christian should or shouldn’t eat or drink; the faith of weaker Christians was being destroyed, and others were arrogantly trying to force their opinions upon other Christians –in other words, Christians were forming factions. So whatever we do as Christians, if we are not working to mutually edify one another with a heart that is faithful to and loves God and the fellowship of believers, we are sinning. But let me be clear, the Word is not speaking here about foundational, central beliefs of the faith –things that are clearly commanded by God; it is talking about disputable matters (Romans 14:1). And the best advice for disputable matters as commanded by Scripture is this: “Whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves,” (Romans 14:22). Please take this very seriously and consider that grumbling or complaining about the church over disputable matters will ultimately result in the faith of young Christians being destroyed or, at the very least, will discourage the unchurched from wanting to be churched. We exist to edify, not cause people to stumble and fall.
I attended the North American Christian Convention a few years ago in Louisville, Kentucky and had the privilege of attending a workshop where Rick Atchley spoke. I bought the recording of the workshop and have recently listened to again. Rick is the Sr. Minister at a thriving church in Texas and attributed the success of that church to being a “Romans 14” church. In another, similar session, I heard that leaders of a church can either be firefighters or fire starters. In other words, Christians can choose to remain immature and constantly squabble in the church over disputable matters, thus forcing the leadership to perpetually mediate and put out fires. Or the church can choose to grow up and edify one another and themselves so that the leadership can start fires in the hearts of the community of believers and the surrounding community. At the convention in Cincinnati a couple of years ago, I heard another speaker say that all churches are either “Loving Father” or “grumbling brother” churches –taken from the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). Do we love unconditionally, loving one another and seeking the lost with the love and determination that the Father shows? Or are we grumbling as the older brother did?
Are there things being done in the church that you don’t like? Are they important matters, or disputable matters? Are you uncomfortable with change? Are you extending the love and grace that you would expect other Christians to extend to you? Is your conviction about something important to you? If Scripture does not speak specifically about your conviction, then please, keep the matter between you and God and talk to Him about it: “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained,” (Philippians 3:15-16).
The Church of Jesus Christ is commanded to follow the “Most Excellent Way.” What I want doesn’t really matter. What you want doesn’t really matter. What Christ wants is what really matters. And this is what Christ wants: “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food [or anything else that doesn’t ultimately matter]." If we can understand and adopt this one, crucial principle and abide by it, Kouts Christians Church, by the grace and power of God, will be unstoppable. Please consider the plea of 1 Corinthians 13-14 and Romans 14-15. Let us mutually edify one another to the glory and praise of God.