It always amazes me, when I get to know someone, how very different our daily lives can be. Even people with similar careers, family situations, and personal backgrounds usually have some part of their lifestyle that makes it totally unlike my own. And since I have chosen my lifestyle for what I consider to be good reasons, it's only natural that I should have concerns about people who make different choices.
..which can be a huge problem, especially for those of us in Christian community. Given that we pay attention to the moral and spiritual implications of how we live our daily lives, we easily become judgmental. Even our children can pick up on it, and we run the risk of making them more harsh towards others, especially others they consider to be somehow living the "wrong way."
Paul saw this poison taking root in the early church of Rome. Not content to be united in Christ, the community continually squabbled over issues of lifestyle. In Romans 14:1-12 the issues at stake are doubtless very important -- on what day to worship together, whether to eat or abstain from meat. And knowing Paul, who always has a strong opinion on everything, we'd expect him to weigh in hard on one side or the other. But instead of seeing those he disagrees with as the problem, Paul sees the tendency to pass judgment itself as the problem.
This is not to say that every lifestyle decision is equally good and we should never try to steer one another towards better paths. But offering help and support is worlds different than passing judgment and treating someone harshly or excluding them. So Paul rightly reminds us that judgment belongs to the Lord, and that when we see a person in trouble our hands should be holding our gifts, not a gavel. What a relief, to be freed from the compulsion to measure and criticize every little thing in the lives of those around us!
Grace and peace be with you all on this beautiful day and throughout this week.
Blessings and best regards,