What’s up with Romans 13 & 14?
You know those signs when you enter someone’s home that say, “in this house we…” and then they mention all sorts of cute things like “forgive, love one another, have fun?” You probably have one of those signs somewhere in your house. They’re great signs, right? They make us feel all lovey dovey inside and they’re great to point out reminders to our children.
That’s what Paul was up to in Romans 13 and 14. He just started listing all the rules to live by in your life. His sign would say something like, “In this house, we submit to governing authorities, pay our taxes, owe nothing to anyone, obey the commandments, wake up, live descent lives, accept others whose faith is weak without arguing with them, keep a clear conscience, don’t condemn each other, aim for harmony in the church, build each other up, follow our convictions” (Romans 13-14). Then somewhere in there, Paul talked an awful lot about what people eat. Like, apparently there were a lot of hot trendy diets going around and people who were on them were acting more spiritual than others? As if that was unique to that time frame. No. It’s completely the same now. Someone’s always on some new diet trend and trying to get you on board with them. Because let’s face it, it’s tough not eating bread when you’re at the Old Spaghetti Factory with a table full of people eating free bread offering you more.
All joking aside, I believe that if we dig a bit deeper into Paul’s point, and we actually tried to apply the truths he taught, we’d all be much better off, enjoy our lives more, enjoy our friends who eat weird more, and be a much better witness for the Gospel. So let’s dig in.
Respect authority (Romans 13:1-5). In other words, trust in God! Trust that God has placed that person or those people in authority over you. Therefore, respect, obey, and keep a clear conscience.
Pay your taxes (Romans 13:6-7). Did the IRS write the Bible? No! God did. He wrote this part through a man named Paul. Honor systems (even if broken and imperfect) that God has put into place, like taxes.
Obey the commandments, all the time (Romans 13:8-14). In other words, not just on Sundays or when Christians are watching you. Life is FAR too short for that. Keep short accounts and trust the Lord. Love your neighbor (all people) as yourself (Romans 13:9). That means not doing ANY wrong to others (Romans 13:10). Can you imagine, not doing ANY wrong to ANYONE EVER? That’s our call. Be kind to the repair man, to the person in front of you at the checkout lane with a zillion coupons.
That leads to the next part, which the NLT titles as “The Danger of Criticism.”
Don’t argue with people even if they disagree with you (Romans 14:1). First, we’re to look past our differences with others and accept each other. Next, Paul tells us we can do this because God is the true and only righteous judge. Lastly, we’re not to condemn others for being different than us! INSTEAD, we’re to live and die to Christ alone, as opposed to pleasing others. We’re also to aim for harmony in the church and to build each other up! “Oh Lord, help us do this with our kids! Even though their different from us as parents, help us build them up in their uniqueness without condemning them for being different! Amen!” Lastly, and this is very important: we’re to keep our convictions. God loves that we have convictions about different things! He just doesn’t want us putting those convictions on others as if they’re requirements to acceptance into Heaven. If you don’t celebrate Halloween or have a Christmas tree, or watch a certain show, awesome! But keep it between yourself and God. That doesn’t mean it’s a secret or you have to put up a Christmas tree when your friends come over. It means when you hear of how others have a Christmas tree or celebrate Halloween, you don’t judge and don’t broadcast your own views on the subject as if you know better. If asked, be honest, not ashamed. “Our family has chosen to celebrate Christmas without a tree.” Or, “we’ve decided Halloween would be better spent hosting a game night.” Personal convictions about these areas are just that, personal. And if you know someone who’s faith only allows them to eat vegetables and they think bread is from the devil, allow them to be that way. God allows for variety in His Kingdom. He’s called us each to different things for different reasons (Romans 14).
In this house we
look past differences and accept each other
Because God is the true judge and He will judge
Don’t condemn others for their convictions
Live and die to Christ alone (not to please others)
Aim for harmony in the church and build each other UP!
Keep our convictions and LIVE by them!
What a brilliant idea! What if we focused on building people up in the way God made them as opposed to making them like us to make us feel better? What if we took our eyes off of ourselves and focused on the bigger picture of God and making Him great? Listen to me. I just condemned ya’ll, myself included. Oh this is tough. Confessions of a recovering critic here. Praying we as the church, myself included, could live out Romans 13-14 in our homes and in our lives.