Paul, modernly speaking

A modern translation of Paul's open letters to the believers in the Messiah


Don't condemn people because of theological differences

You are reading my open letter to Rome, part: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][[10][[11]][12][13][14][15][16]

My friends, I've already told you this, but let me reiterate because it's so critical: there's no need to be judgmental, especially of your brothers and sisters in Messiah. Why attack others for their faults when you've got your hands full with your own struggles?

There are some people who don't eat any meat, for example, while you may be convinced eating meat is entirely acceptable. Either way, don't judge the other guy -- God's accepted both vegetarians and meat-eaters; it's not your place to pass condemning judgment on them over differences like this.

Or maybe some of you celebrate certain holidays, while the rest of you treat all days as equal. Instead of condemning each other for doing and not doing, focus instead on strengthening each other.

Now, it's true that God has set some days as holy, and it's true there are some meats God told us to refrain from. I'm not canceling out those things. Rather, I'm telling you to live in the peace and love of Messiah, differences aside. You can hold strong opinions on those things and have strong theological stances on them, just be sure they take a back seat to love in Messiah. I keep coming back to this theme of love because it's so important: It's the whole purpose of the Law and the prophets, everything in Scripture! Loving each other and loving God fulfills it all. Keep that in mind before you condemn your brothers and sisters in Messiah over your theological differences.

It helps to remember where you're headed: kneeling in front of the Judge, our Master, Jesus the Messiah. Can you picture yourself saying, "But Master, surely you can pardon my wrongdoing, after all, I ate only vegetables!" Or will you proudly proclaim, "Lord, have mercy on me, for I condemned everyone who didn't celebrate the holidays!"? Such things aren't going to help you out when your time comes.

Now that I've put it in that context, I hope you see the trivial nature of these things.

So, if your brother is weakened by what you eat, stop eating it. If he stumbles because you drink wine, stop drinking wine. Love him and help him out -- after all, Messiah's life-giving sacrifice paid for both of you equally. Then you can settle your differences.

Standing up for what's right

Don't be confused, I'm not telling you to roll over and let your convictions fall by the wayside -- if you're convinced what you're doing is right before God, don't let others call it evil. You can and should stand up for what's right.

What I'm saying is this: love first. If you stand up for what you believe is right, do it in love and not out of condemnation.

And when you do make a stand for what's right, do it as if God's standing right next to you, listening to every word. Do it out of faith and love, not out of some selfish desire to be right while boosting your ego. Stand up for what's right using faith and love, and ultimately you'll be fulfilling the Law even if your theology is off.

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Blogger Judah Gabriel Himango said...

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As a bit of side commentary, it was interesting and enlightening to see some of the anti-Jewish, English translations of this chapter be thoroughly debunked through Paul's real meaning of love.

In the 100-300 CE centuries, there was a strong movement in the church (which soon transformed into the Roman Catholic Church) to do away with all things Jewish, including the Old Testament (in particular, the Law), and any observance of holidays, Sabbath, or other command in the Law. There were even some that wanted to throw out all books of the Bible, keeping only Paul's letters as the basis for a new religion!

It's a sad irony, then, that some people have taken Paul's advice in this chapter about putting love over theology and twisted it to be a theological point with which to stick those people that keep the Law, observe the Sabbath, and celebrate the Biblical feasts.

The twisting is apparent in verse 14, which in traditional English translations reads "I am convinced no food is unclean by itself", when the Greek manuscripts mention neither "clean", "unclean", nor "food" in the entire verse. (See the above link for citation.)

It is clear that Paul was not commenting on the right-or-wrong status of keeping the Law, Sabbath, or Biblical feasts; he covered that in an earlier chapter. Rather, Paul is saying that we should put love above all matters of theology.

Paul no doubt was aware of the problems theological differences can bring, being brought up under Pharisaical Judaism, where every thinkable minutia of the Law has argued for and against. (For example, minutia such as whether it's lawful to use an oven built with a brick laid on the Sabbath.) Paul even says this plainly in another letter, telling us straight up to avoid endless debates about theological minutia. Paul ties it all together by saying instead of arguing over theology, strengthen each other's faith in living by love.

Can't go wrong with love.

1:49 PM  

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