“When in Rome”

By P.J. Casebolt

There is an old adage that says, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

And, while this philosophy may work in some areas, some of the time, it must still be recognized for what it is – chimney corner Scripture. Or, for the purpose of this article, it may be more accurately termed vacation Scripture. Some brethren do things while on vacation that they wouldn’t do at any other time.

The Scriptures teach, and it is generally conceded, that Christians are not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:25). In his travels, and often under severe conditions, the apostle Paul sought out and found the disciples in the communities where he visited. He found the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26), in Ephesus (19:1), at Troas (20:7), at both Tyre and Ptolemais (21:4,7), and at Putcoli (28:14).

Sometimes the disciples found Paul, or by their mutual efforts, they found each other (Acts 28:15; 2 Tim. 1:17). Paul looked diligently for the disciples before his conversion in order to persecute them (Acts 8:3; 9:2), but manifested a similar zeal after his conversion in order to edify, and be edified by, the disciples. The enemies of the church sometimes spend more time looking for the true disciples of the Lord than those disciples spend looking for each other.

Under normal conditions, brethren tend to assemble with and fellowship those brethren with whom they are in agreement on such matters as the identity, work, worship, organization, and mission of the church. But let those same brethren go on vacation to Florida or some other geographical area for a few days, weeks, or even months, and they will assemble wherever it is convenient.

And, this inconsistent practice isn’t just a one-sided thing. Those who consider themselves to be of a liberal or conservative attitude back in their home communities will switch their loyalties like vacillating politicians. When in “Rome,” they will fellowship the very thing which they condemn at other times and places.

I have known brethren to stop on vacation and “observe” the Lord’s supper with the digressive Christian Church, instrumental music, missionary societies and all. Yet, the Lord said his supper would be in his kingdom (Matt. 26:29). Some say if they had to make a choice, they would prefer Catholicism to Buddhism, Protestantism to Catholicism, the Christian Church to the Baptist Church, or a liberal church of Christ to a Crossroads church of Christ.

We should speak and practice those things which constitute “sound doctrine” (Tit. 2:1), and we should have no fellowship with those things which are “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10). The idea that “it is better to do something wrong than to do nothing” was born of rank liberalism, and violates the Scriptures in both precept and principle (Rom. 3:8).

Anyone may become lost, receive the wrong directions, be deceived by false information, or encounter circumstances beyond his control. But brethren get themselves into some of the aforementioned predicaments through negligence or a lack of conviction. “Let every man be persuaded in his own mind” applies not only to things which are optional (Rom. 14:5), but also to things which have been legislated (Jas. 4:17). We don’t have to be condemned by others, we condemn ourselves by allowing that which we condemn in others (Rom. 2:1; 14:22).

In order to take our phrase out of the realm of chimney corner or vacation scripture, and make it harmonize with the Holy Scriptures, we might say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do, provided the Romans are doing things ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ'” (Col. 3:17).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 12, p. 357
June 20, 1991