Romans 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. (NIV)
I was just reading an article about how modern worship styles diminish from Jesus, and although I know that I can be unkind myself, I just didn’t find the article helpful.
I respect that we are a large Christian family, and I know that I for one love to insist in my own way when I think I’m right. I’m trying to do that less, because I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter whether or not you are right. How you respond to others when you think they are not right is what matters.
I think this passage of Romans is meant to let people know that the differences are okay. Even though it’s hard to come to understanding with traditions or practices in Christianity that are unfamiliar to us, that doesn’t mean that different denominations or groups of people have an invalid perspective. It is easy to condemn others, and exclude attempts at understanding from your lifestyle. Part of the reason that the person who does not condemn him or herself for what he or she approves is blessed is because generally, it takes a little bit of effort to understand a tradition long enough to recognize it’s value. If you view someone else’s traditions with the desire to understand in what ways they might constitute worship, then you will recognize a lot more meaning and richness of human experience than if you chose to be a sourpuss and stay stuck. I believe that God is reflected in every human culture, and although I rarely understand people without trying, I recognize more of God when I engage with what I do not know instead of shutting people out. It’s really hard to care about your brothers and sisters in Christ if you don’t make an honest effort to understand them. Being willing to listen and grow is an act of love.
To me, the way of life mentioned in this scripture reflects a person who makes significant attempts on a regular basis to reconcile with perspectives he or she does not know. By seeking God over what you do not understand, you work through how you see the world with him. By keeping what you know and don’t know before God’s throne and continuing to seek him, you neither condemn your neighbor or keep your secret thoughts private, instead displaying them before God. Because not every disagreement is helpful, I personally would rather have my friends and Christian family try to seek God for what they see as character flaws in me, instead of judging me but doing it quietly. While it is important to have enough reverence for God that you desire to bring to him the things you don’t understand, if my Christian family does not do so in love, it is basically useless to them or me. It’s more of 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 in practice: if your intentions are to dismantle instead of build up, then your actions will generally have that effect.
While I respect individual differences, I dream about having differences of opinion communicated respectfully. Even if you don’t like the way I engage with God, it means so much more when you honor a person’s perspective by trying to understand instead of quietly disengaging. I would rather be wrong and respected/respectful than right and rude/selfish. While I know that the person who wrote this article probably didn’t mean for it to hurt anyone, that person’s words certainly did have that effect on me. As a writer and as a friend, I will use this experience as an opportunity to examine what impact my words have on others (like 2 Timothy 2, James 3:5, etc). As a Christian living in community with others, maybe I can use the times where I feel upset by someone else’s words as a time to fear God and reconsecrate myself towards serving my Christian family, having been reminded of how my words can wound. Besides, I’m not really upset by what this person had to say, but how they chose to communicate it.