A Modern-Day Parable of Romans 14 (How to avoid conflicts in the church)

Once a week George, Tony, Wallace and their families would gather for a potluck at one of their homes for a Bible study.  They all came from different backgrounds and traditions and it soon became evident that there were conflicts among them. They all loved and appreciated each other but they were afraid their conflicts would tear them apart. They realized they needed help to find a resolution to the conflicts so they all agreed to go visit an older man named Elmer. He was someone they all respected and it was evident to all, by the testimony of his long life, that he loved the Lord and was very wise in his years.

When they arrived at Elmer’s home they all shared their concerns about their conflicts, and after patiently listening, Elmer told them he would think about it and pray about it and send them a letter the next week that they could review together before their next gathering.

Letter from Elmer to George, Tony, and Wallace

After you read it, read Romans 14:1-15:6 and let me know what you think… it really helped me to understand how to resolve the conflicts that this passage is talking about.

Featured images: CC0 license by Clem Onojeghuo and Jae Croom on pexels.com

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4 Replies to “A Modern-Day Parable of Romans 14 (How to avoid conflicts in the church)”

  1. Romans 14 Cultivating Good Relationships

    1 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

    2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

    5 Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

    6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

    10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
    “As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
    Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”
    So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

    13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

    15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!

    17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

    19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.

    22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.

    The Message (MSG)
    Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

  2. Amazingly, this principle even applies when people are wrongly fully convinced of the Lord that they are doctrinally correct…

    In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. (Romans 14:5)

    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. (Romans 14:14)

  3. Dear Elmer,
    As an older man I want to entreat you to consider that the sincere true shoe leather of walking in love toward your brother is to not simply accepting what the other is doing but rather to give up a of drink wine, or to give up anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. I am not aware of anyone ever being offended, or stumbling, or being made weak by another abstaining from eating meat or a drink of wine. So I would encourage each George, Tony, and Wallace to give up something like the Thanksgiving Holiday that can not be found in the Holy Bible for the sake of the other. This would require each George, Tony, and Wallace to lay down their life for their brother rather than simply accepting their brother. Giving acceptance to someone does not require one to give up anything that self wants for their brother, and many a hippy has done this in the 60′s. Yours truly – A younger brother in Christ

    • For what it’s worth, you guys may not be as far apart as it might seem. What you are saying is certainly true that we should lay down our lives for our brothers. We know that all the law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor as our ourselves (Romans 13:8). And, this does apply to personal opinions and personal liberties. But, we’re not talking about whether to drive a Ford or a Chevy. The problem comes when we’re talking about sincerely held convictions of what is right or wrong before God. Right now today, there are Christians who hold a strong sincere belief that water baptism, the Lord’s supper, church offices, living apostles, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc. are required. Other Christians hold equally strong sincere beliefs that they are not required. Romans 14 says, even when you are fully convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ of the truth of one side or the other, you should not condemn a brother.