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What do I think about wearing a mask? (Do you really care what I think? You shouldn’t). Of course, I have an opinion on the subject and, of course, my opinion is right (yes, tongue-in-cheek). But here’s the real question: How am I going to get along with those believers who don’t share my opinion?

This is a perennial issue, and I’ve struggled with it my whole life.

I know Christians who play cards and dominoes, and I know Christians who don’t because of their association with the occult.

I know Christians who watch football, and I know Christians who don’t because the cheerleaders are degrading to women.

I know Christians who celebrate Christmas, and I know Christians who don’t because of its historical association with pagan festivities.

I know Christians who vacation at the beach, and I know Christians who don’t because too many people are dressed inappropriately.

I know Christians who read Ernest Hemingway, and I know Christians who don’t because his books don’t reflect a biblical worldview.

I know Christians who lift weights, and I know Christians who don’t because it’s fueled by vanity.

I know Christians who watch “I Love Lucy,” and I know Christians who don’t because it conveys a spirit of feminism in seminal form.

I know Christians who study the martial arts, and I know Christians who don’t because of their origins in eastern spirituality.

I know Christians who drink beer and wine in moderation, and I know Christians who don’t because they believe the devil is in every bottle.

I know Christians who own a gun (or, guns), and I know Christians who don’t because they can’t picture Jesus carrying a gun.

I know Christians who worship with songs drawn from a vast array of sources, and I know Christians who only sing the psalms because it’s the church’s hymn-book.

I know Christians who believe all church services should integrate all ages, and I know Christians who don’t because there are educational goals corresponding to certain stages of spiritual and intellectual development.

I know Christians who use the internet, and I know Christians who don’t because it’s used in morally repugnant ways.

I know Christians who hunt deer, and I know Christians who don’t because they think it’s cruel and, therefore, flagrant abuse of God’s creation.

I know Christians who think babies should be born in a hospital, and I know Christians who think babies should be born (as God intended) at home.

I know Christians who have no problem with women wearing pants, make-up, or ear-rings, and I know Christians who are opposed to such things because of their overt worldliness.

I know Christians who allow their kids to dress up in morally inoffensive costumes and collect candy on Halloween, and I know Christians who don’t because of its association with evil.

I know Christians who think there are many ways to educate their children, and I know Christians who think there’s only one God-approved and God-ordained way and we dare not deviate from it.

I know Christians who dance (or, at least, think they can), and I know Christians who are opposed to all dancing.

I know Christians who watch movies at the cinema, and I know Christians who are opposed to the cinema because of the garbage that’s shown there.

I know Christians who adhere to a certain dress-code for Sunday worship, and I know Christians who don’t believe such things are necessary.

And I could go on, but let’s return to the issue at hand: How am I going to get along with those believers who don’t share my opinion on wearing a mask? What am I going to do? I could make it my mission in life to convert everyone to my point of view. I could attempt to force the church to adopt my opinion by withholding my support, boycotting church services, and who knows what else. I could act upon my convictions without giving a moment’s thought to what anyone else thinks. I could try to find a church where everyone agrees with me. I could gather my wife and children around me on a Sunday morning and worship at home – the last faithful remnant!

What am I going to do? Wearing a mask is but one example of a struggle that’s never going away – this side of heaven. Within the church, there will always be differences of opinion. How are we going to handle it?

Turning to Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we discover that a problem is festering within the church. He says it’s related to “opinions” (ESV), “disputable matters” (NIV), “doubtful disputations” (AV) (Rom. 14:1). What’s he talking about? Evidently, some refrain from eating meat; others don’t (v. 2). Some observe festival days; others don’t (v. 5). Some avoid unclean foods; others don’t (v. 14). Some refuse to drink wine; others don’t (v. 21). Paul divides these two groups into “weak” and “strong” Christians (v. 1).

Do you see the problem? The weak judge the strong: “They must not be very spiritual. If they were, they wouldn’t think like that.” Meanwhile, the strong despise the weak: “They must not be very spiritual. If they were, they wouldn’t think like that.” These two groups are on a collision course. Unless something is done, there are only two possible results: cold war or civil war. And so, Paul prescribes three remedies (14:1–15:7).

I’m going to consider the first in this article. Here it is: “Don’t Judge! Welcome!” (vv. 1–12).

God has welcomed my brother (v. 3)

“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him” (v. 3). My brother is foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:28–30). He’s as loved, accepted, cherished, and welcomed by God as I am. Therefore, I must not make my acceptance of him contingent on how he scores on my list of opinions.

God has redeemed my brother (vv. 4–9)

“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (v. 4). God is my brother’s Master (v. 4). God will uphold (accept) my brother on the judgment day (v. 4). Moreover, my brother is “fully convinced in his own mind” as to his opinions (v. 5). My brother is motivated by a desire to “honour” God (v. 6). My brother lives for God because he belongs to God (vv. 7–9). All of this is crucial. It means that both the weak and strong (i.e., those on the opposite sides of the issue) act in faith; both of them act from gratitude; and both of them act for God’s glory. Therefore, we have no business to pass judgment on one another.

God will judge my brother (vv. 10–12)

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (v. 10). Please notice the word “all.” A day is coming when “all” will stand before God’s judgment seat. Please notice the word “every” in v. 11. A day is coming when “every” knee will bow before God. Please notice the word “each” in v. 12. A day is coming when “each” one will give “an account of himself to God.” This has two implications for the current discussion. (1) I need to realize that I’m not appointed to judge my brother on these matters. He has a Master to whom he’ll give an account. (2) I need to realize that I’m going to stand before God’s judgment seat. I’m going to bow my knee. I’m going to give an account of my life. All that to say: God will judge me according to my works. If I’ve been judgmental toward others, contemptuous toward others, unmerciful toward others, uncharitable toward others, these things will be made evident on the judgment day.

Application

Isn’t it amazing how Paul relates great theological truths to petty problems festering within the church in Rome? There are two groups struggling over “opinions.” What does Paul do? Interestingly, he doesn’t attempt to resolve the debate. Instead, he points them to something of far greater consequence. He takes them to Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, present reign, and future judgment, to demonstrate that our chief concern is to glorify God.

And so, how am I going to interact with those believers who don’t share my opinion on wearing a mask? I’m going to remind myself that Christ’s acceptance of my brother isn’t contingent upon my brother’s acceptance of my opinion. And with Christ before me, I’m going to act in faithout of gratitude, and for God’s glory.

 


*An earlier version of this article appeared here and is used here by permission.

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