By Bill Reeves
Many and varied are the perverted uses of Paul’s inspired teaching in what we call the 14th chapter of Romans. Here’s a new one, at least for me.
The Broadway church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, in their bulletin of January 30, 2000, received a message from the elders to the “diverse family of believers” that make up the congregation. Some in the congregation were wanting to actively participate in the “Franklin Graham Festival 2000.” (Franklin is the son of Billy Graham.) Others in the congregation were opposed to such participation. According to the bulletin article, they did “not believe members should participate.” The elders, considering that “the Festival has the potential to be a very divisive issue,” “in the spirit of unity and in Christ’s love” decided that the Broadway congregation could not “serve as an official sponsor of Festival 2000” (that would be using Max Lucado to “kick off” the events leading up to the Festival).
So, the elders made the following request of the “Broadway family”: Those who were “uncomfortable with any participation in Festival 2000” were to pray for and encourage those of the “family” who would attend or work for the crusade. After all, the elders said, the desire of those participating was solely that of souls being saved and doors being opened for the gospel of Christ. On the other hand, those who felt “called to attend or work for Festival 2000” were to pray for and understand those who were “uncomfortable” with any role in the Festival. Here’s the very epitome of compromise!
Seems like these elders were putting the issue on the plane of comfort. Were those opposed to participation in the Festival simply “uncomfortable” with doing so? If so, why didn’t the elders reprove them for hindering a good cause for no better reason than their personal comfort? The objectors had a larger reason than “comfort” for their opposition. Their objection was based on what they believed!
But, this paragraph from the bulletin “takes the cake”! I quote: “We know that Broadway has people wanting to attend or serve in various capacities; and, out of the same desire for unity in Christ, we want them to know that they have the blessings of the Broadway eldership. In a paraphrase of what Paul says in Romans 14 what may be wrong for one brother is not necessarily wrong for another.”
Romans 14 is perverted again! How many errors and false doctrines are covered by Romans 14! Did the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul say in Romans 14 that in any and all situations “what may be wrong for one brother is not necessarily wrong for another”? Or, did he say that, in context, “nothing is unclean of itself” (v. 14), and that “all things indeed are clean” (v. 20)? According to Romans 14 a brother might consider a particular action to be wrong for him, but that particular action was right with God and therefore permissible. It was not wrong in and of itself; it was “clean.”
But in the Lubbock situation, some brethren believed that participation in, or fellowship of, a certain sectarian crusade to be unscriptural. Were they simply “uncomfortable” with it? No, surely they objected to the unscriptural arrangement of the Festival and the false teaching of salvation by faith only (which includes the rejection of baptism for the remission of sins) that would be taught in the Festival. But the compromising elders asked such to pray for and encourage those who would be fellowshipping error and false doctrine!
So, now we know what Paul meant in Romans 14: if some in the congregation believe that sprinkling babies, using instrumental music in worship to God, and installing women elders is wrong, that does not make these practices necessarily wrong for others in the congregation. Furthermore, it means that those opposed to such practices, considering them wrong, should pray for and encourage those innovators, who don’t consider them wrong, and who bring such practices into the congregation. In the meantime, the elders are not to officially endorse such practices, but neither are they to oppose them. Bible unity demands this, for after all, Romans 14 teaches that “what is wrong for one brother is not necessarily wrong for another.”
Romans 14 has become a magical wand in the hands of many brethren. Simply wave it, and suddenly what is unscriptural for some becomes scriptural for others, and everyone should be pray for each other and encourage the innovator, while the compromising elders refuse to take a stand since they must keep the unity!
Amazing, indeed, is the reasoning and perversion of Scriptures of those who give up their love for the Truth! When Truth is left, what is left to those who left it? Broadway’s bulletin article well illustrates the answer!
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