I have an ongoing debate with my father-in-law about the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it Holy . . .” You see, my family and I go to church, but we go on Sunday. My in-laws are of the Seventh Day Adventist faith, and go to church on Sabbath (or Saturday).
So, who’s right?
I joke that I would hate to be sitting in hell between Charles Manson and Adolph Hitler as one of them turns to ask me, “Hey, what’re you in for?”
“Uuhh, well . . . I went to church on the wrong day.”
Actually, I get along really well with my wife’s family. They’re very accepting of our differences and we actually have some lively yet productive discussions on faith as we sit around the dinner table. As it should be . . .
But what of those who don’t have such acceptance or, at least, tolerance?
What of those that truly believe “Sunday-keeping” is not only wrong, but we who practice it are an instrument of the enemy? What of those that believe the foods we eat make us “clean” or “unclean”? What of those that believe listening to a certain type of music or, God forbid, dancing, makes us no better than pagans? That any and all of these things are not only wrong for them, they’re wrong for everyone.
That’s unfortunate. (Anyone who knows me, knows that I use this term as the nicest, most politically correct way of saying that something, to me, is B.S.—see the difference?)
I love the book of Romans. Paul is very pointed in his outline of what faith looks like; the actions and mindset of a Christ follower. In chapter 14 he makes it very clear how he feels about people’s judgements of one another over certain practices. Here’s just a sample:
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s (i.e. God’s) servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
In other words, you are accountable only to one, or One. And this is not a “live and let live”, nor is it an “anything goes” principle. To each person is the accountability to God for their actions; if you do something, you do it to the glory of God. Is drunkenness glorifying God? Is gluttony? Yet, is having a hamburger, a beer or glass of wine, or going to church on Sunday, or Thursday, preventing you from your ability to glorify God?
Of course not. Still, there is another side of the coin in Romans 14:
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.
Is having that hamburger in front of a brother or sister whose faith places dietary restrictions on them a “stumbling block”? Is having that beer in front of a recovering alcoholic a “stumbling block”? Is trying to convince a Sabbath-keeping believer that the fourth commandment isn’t that important anymore a “stumbling block”?
Absolutely: Because, to them it is important.
What’s right for one person is right for them. What’s wrong for one person is wrong for them. And to flaunt your differences or to condemn those who are different because they’re not “just like you” isn’t right for anyone. After all, you’re just as likely to trip on your own stumbling block as is your neighbor.