Note from Jesus
Part of the challenge of being in a multi-cultural fellowship, is that people who are different from you are… different! Their background experiences are different. Their cultures are different. Their customs are different. Their foods are different. Their manners and matters of courtesy are different. Their language can be different. Some things that you may have been trained from the crib to reject as crude or unsavory may be common practice and treasured by another culture. So in a multi-cultural congregation, learn to appreciate your differences as long as I AM Lord, the Father is exalted, and the Holy Spirit lives in you.
Also, remember this “two-sided” principle:
In light of this, we must resolve never to judge others and never to place an obstacle or impediment in their paths that could cause them to trip and fall.
It is your responsibility not to judge your fellow brother or sister on cultural issues. This duty is true even if those issues are offensive to your sense of what is proper. On the other hand, just because you are free to practice something in your culture because you have an understanding of grace, doesn’t mean you should use that freedom. You do not want to cause a brother or sister to stumble so that you can celebrate your freedom (1 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 5:13-14). In other words, on cultural issues, go out of your way to make sure there are no unnecessary barriers and no stumbling blocks to interfere with your fellowship with others.
Why is this two-sided principle so important? It is important because you will stand before the Father in judgment. Either He will use the grace with which you have treated, accepted, and lived for others to judge you, or He will use the harsh and condemning standard you have used on others (Matthew 7:1-2). I don’t think I have to tell you which one of those you will need!
But even more than just trying to avoid the Father’s harsh judgment if you have judged others harshly, I want you to follow My example of grace. I want you to follow My example of giving grace regarding cultural differences. I also want you to follow My example of giving grace in all interactions with others. Treat people in your day in the way I treated them in my day (Luke 7:1-50; John 8:1-11; John 4:1-26; Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 5:6-11). Recognize how I welcomed all sorts of different people. Remind yourself of who you were before I welcomed you. And finally, remember what Paul taught in the verses below about not judging others and not causing others to sin. The theme of today’s verses will continue into tomorrow when you will read these words:
So accept one another in the same way the Anointed has accepted you so that God will get the praise He is due.
That’s the point!
Verses to Live
Your goal in multi-cultural settings must not be to prove yourself right. You are called to welcome others as I have welcomed you. In My family, the overriding issue is whether or not you treat your Christian brothers and sisters who are different from you in the same way that I treated people. Will you welcome them, differences and all, into My fellowship as I did?
Paul was emphatic about this point:
[I]f God has accepted them, you have no reason to reject them. How could you think for a moment that you have the right to judge another person’s servant?
That, My dear disciple, is very clear! So carefully read what Paul has to say about all this and I know you will be blessed and challenged.
It’s high time that you welcome all people weak in the faith without debating and disputing their opinions.
Here’s the issue: One person believes that nothing’s off the menu; he’ll eat any food put before him. But there’s another believer — we’ll call him the weaker — who eats only vegetables because the meat is tainted through contact with an idol. If you are an eater of all things, do not be condescending to your vegetarian brother or sister. In turn, those who abstain from certain foods on religious principles should not judge your brothers and sisters who eat meat — if God has accepted them, you have no reason to reject them. How could you think for a moment that you have the right to judge another person’s servant? Each servant answers to his own Master, and he will either stand or fall in His presence. The good news is that he will stand because the Master is able to make it so.
There may be a believer who regards one day as more sacred than any other, while another views every day as sacred as the next. In these matters, all must reach their own conclusions and satisfy their own minds. If someone observes a day as holy, he observes it in honor of the Lord. If another eats a particular diet, he eats in honor of the Lord since he begins by giving thanks! If yet another abstains from that same food, he abstains out of respect for the Lord and begins his meal by thanking God too. The truth is that none of us live for ourselves, and none die for ourselves. For if we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord. So in both life and death, we belong to the Lord. The Anointed One, the Liberating King, died and returned to life to make this a reality: through His death and resurrection, He became Lord of the living and the dead.
So how is it that you continue to judge your brother? How is it possible for you to look down on a sister? We will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
“As I live, so I promise,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow down to Me.
Every tongue will confess to God.”
So every one of us, regardless of our eating habits, should expect to give an account for our own lives to God.
In light of this, we must resolve never to judge others and never to place an obstacle or impediment in their paths that could cause them to trip and fall. Personally I have been completely convinced that in Jesus, our Lord, no object in and of itself is unclean; but if my fellow believers are convinced that something is unclean, then it is unclean to them. If the food you eat harms your brother, then you have failed to love him. Do not let what you eat tear down your brother; after all, the Anointed laid down His life for him. Do not allow people to slander something you find to be good because the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking. When God reigns, the order of the day is redeeming justice, true peace, and joy made possible by the Holy Spirit. You see, those who serve the Anointed in this way will be welcomed into the whole acceptance of God and valued by all men. Join us, and pursue a life that creates peace and builds up our brothers and sisters.
Do not sacrifice God’s work for the sake of certain foods. It is true that all things are clean, but it’s wrong to eat if you know that eating something will cause offense. It is right for you to abstain from certain meats and wine (or anything else for that matter) if it prevents your brother from falling in his faith. Hold on to what you believe about these issues, but keep them between you and God. A happy man does not judge himself by the lifestyle he endorses. But a man who decides for himself what to eat is condemned because he is not living by his faith. Any action not consistent with faith is sin.
Response in Prayer
O gracious and holy Father, thank You for welcoming me into Your family. Thank You for the gift of Jesus. Thank You for the grace You offered to me through Jesus. Thank You for the brothers and sisters in Christ who accepted me into their fellowship and made me part of their spiritual family. Please use me to do the same for those seeking to find a place in Your family and my fellowship. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.