How Do You Deal with Romans 14 Violators?

So obviously this is a spiritual topic I’ve thought of on-and-off again over the years.  It’s very interesting to me, to see Christian people sin without being awake to their own actions.  In different ways, they cover up their sins, lie to themselves about their sins, or blatantly accuse others of doing exactly what they’re doing.  Romans 14 violators are the “divisive” people of Christianity.

You could put it all under one big umbrella of human (sin) nature, I believe.  None of us are without it, every one of us have probably at some point, been a Romans 14 violator; even when we are trying to be good and righteous, sometimes we are actually harboring sinful motivations we may not even be aware of.

The sad thing about Romans 14 violations is that it creates situations of division and hypocrisy.  The same Christians who tend to have a Critical Spirit, are often the first to (with too much assurance in their opinion) advise other Christians on how to deal with much harsher, destructive criticism than they themselves have experienced, while simultaneously not dealing well with their own critics later on down the road.  It is quite amazing to see the level of the hypocrisy.  Again, we’ve all been guilty of these things, just in different ways, hence why Paul’s advice in Romans 14 is timeless wisdom still meant to apply today.

So how do you deal with Romans 14 violators like this without giving in to arguing with them or being affronted at the blatant hypocrisy and self-righteousness?

One statement:

Compassion and Forgiveness… and then possibly Avoidance.

Yes… it’s that simple.  After you work through feelings of frustration 😀 I think you have to have compassion for them.  You have to forgive them and “let them go.”  Even when seeing things like this play out, things that look so obviously wrong or hypocritical, we must not become full of pride and look down on them, and we also must not give in to stooping to a lower level.  I’ve seen what can happen when Christians allow themselves to wallow in bitterness, believing it’s not fair, or that someone “got away” with sinning against them.

We’ve all sinned at some point, and being humble enough to realize this truth, we can extend a hand to them when they’ve fallen, and try to pull them back upright.

I might be weird here, but I really do feel compassion for Romans 14 violators.  I’ve written before how I used to be one, so I understand it from the inside.  I think there’s a reason they toe the line of legalism on things like the way Scriptures should used ( their belief everyone else has to be wrong), or how they clearly enjoy writing posts about the “correct” convictions all Christians should have on things like makeup or modesty, etc.  Is some of it wrong?  Yes.  Do they get some of it right?  Yes.  Does there stance often create division?  Yes.  Are they sometimes hypocritical in what they tell others to do, versus what they actually do?  Yes. LOL  And it can be kind of funny if you relax about it and view their actions from a distance.

Romans 14 is clear on a person’s weakness of faith leading to them having more legalistic convictions, and how if you’re a mature Christian, you must realize their weaknesses and leave them alone, keeping your maturity and freedoms to yourself, not arguing with them or trying to persuade them.  There’s no use in feeling frustrated over a baby Christian not understanding the deeper applications of Old Testament scriptures, or of a Catholic insisting that if you miss church more than 3 times, you’ve excommunicated yourself.  There’s also no use in arguing over their convictions, because then you’re now violating Romans 14!

Realizing someone’s weakness or spiritual-immaturity is a blessing, because they are not yours to “fix,” God allows them to have their weakness for stricter legalism, just as He allows you to have your freedom, and He doesn’t want you two arguing about it.

***

But what about the serious side-effects of Division their arguments create?

Yeah… what about that, huh?  That’s why Paul thought this topic was so important he wrote it into the Bible.  To some degree, these Christians don’t care about the division, or they don’t care enough about the consequences of it, to obey Romans 14.  I could be wrong, but I believe this is why Paul refers to the more legalistic believers as “weak,” while at the same time, having to tell the mature Christians to keep their freedoms “to themselves.”  The weak aren’t mature enough to understand the broad spectrum of personal convictions (that not dressing Amish is ok for the majority of believers, or that missing church more than 3 times doesn’t actually excommunicate you from God or His “religion” for most of us).  And the strong or mature believers have a hard time accepting their legalistic brethren, and not trying to argue with them over their freedoms.  That’s why Paul commands BOTH sets of believers to just not criticize each other over those things, or argue over them since it’s pointless and God honors both of them as long as they have a clear conscious.

It does create division, and yes, this is bad and gives Satan a foothold within the body of Christ (a multi-denominational-racial-geographical community).  I’ve begun to realize that a lot of that weight in keeping the unity, is placed on the more mature believers’ shoulders in not trying to convince the ones with stricter personal convictions that they should have more freedom, while also accepting them for who and what they are (weaker).  Trying to change or challenge their convictions comes from a spirit of arrogance anyway, and yes, I realize the weaker Christians Paul talks about this are frequently guilty of this arrogance, too, because by their weaker nature, they are more apt to see their way or their interpretation as right and feel the need to correct everyone else “doing it wrong.”  The “stronger” Christians are called to accept this and to keep quiet about their own freedoms, they’re required to shoulder the bulk of maintaining the unity through not arguing with the weaker ones who so often love to criticize, correct, and argue.

Division within the Body is ugly.  It’s already hard to have unity in such a diverse group of naturally sinful people, but these arguments go out of the way to create ugly divisions, just like Paul said.  Which is why it’s so important to abide by Romans 14.

A good example of this I saw recently was when an Orthodox man was arguing with Protestants that using birth control or Natural Family Planning in order to avoid pregnancy, was a mutilated form of sex.”    

If you follow the link, you’ll read the Protestant man’s defense against the accusation that his personal conviction was that birth control is “mutilating,” especially something as benign as NFP.  He obviously took offense, and that’s normal when one is accused that their personal conviction is not only “wrong” but something described as horribly wrong as “mutilation.”  Wow!

But let’s take that one example and expound a bit on it:

Clearly some Christian men believe that any action taken in order to prevent pregnancy is considered to be a “mutilated sexual activity” in the eyes of God.  However, even voicing this belief is automatically offensive to the stronger people of faith Paul talks about, because they know, very well, that it’s not a “mutilated sexual activity” when they engage in using birth control or NFP.  They basically have to accept being judged by the weaker in faith, and try to keep quiet about their own freedom in personal conviction on the issue.  I’ve been on both sides of this coin, and while it’s hard for both, I do believe it’s a little harder for the stronger in faith to “accept” this judgment that their way is so wrong or “mutilated.”

It’s a good example of why Romans 14 issues should not be argued over like Paul commands us.  They are personal convictions that when applied (wrongly) to everyone else’s convictions, can be so utterly exclusive as to who is “doing things right” that they exclude the majority of the faithful Catholics trying to abide by normal NFP standards!

The “side effects” of these arguments have been complete wars and terrorist acts (Catholic and Protestant fights in Ireland immediately come to mind).  It starts small, but things like that grow out of proportion and cause us to focus on things we’re just not supposed to be focusing on.

 

So how do you treat them the way God would have you treat them?

Compassion

Have compassion on Romans 14 violators, they’re only human and they’ll probably get less uptight about trying to “fix” everyone else’s problems over the course of their lifetime.  If they’re more legalistic, just remember that even Paul calls them “weaker” in their faith.  You can’t really fault someone for being “weaker,” and thus having more legalistic convictions.

Forgiveness

If you see them engaging in violating Romans 14, and usually it’s the more legalistic ones who point out the “correct” way things should be done or convictions to have, just choose to forgive them and move on.  Having compassion on them first helps a ton with this!  I find myself feeling sorry for them because I truly believe that they are almost incapable of understanding the deeper meaning behind why they shouldn’t be causing division in this way.  Being “weaker in faith” like Paul says, also seems to imply that they’re less mature about the spectrum of God’s grace when it comes to convictions.  So since they’re ignorant rather than malicious, forgiveness and lots of grace is in order.  It’s literally a case of, “Father forgive them, because they know not what they do.”

Avoidance

This one doesn’t have to be implemented, but can be a useful tool if someone is just super keen on arguing for people seeing things only “their way,” or if they’re starting to “get under your skin.”  If they are constantly critical of what other Christians are doing – what music they’re listening to, what verses they’re “using wrong,” or harping on their pet peeves of other Christians, then avoidance is definitely in order.  Sometimes a “weaker faith” Christian may also be plagued with a Critical Spirit, and those two things together means they are someone that may need to be avoided, just so that you don’t get into it with them.  Avoidance doesn’t have to mean that you are angry with them, it’s just a nice or kind tool to ensure you keep unity and peace within the Body.

Studying this stuff, watching it play out in people’s lives is fascinating to me.  It’s also a little sad, because if anything, the main example in this post about the “mutilated sexual activity” between a married couple, just exposes how hard it is for Christians to come together with views like that.  Very interesting.

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8 thoughts on “How Do You Deal with Romans 14 Violators?

  1. My husband helped me think about this topic for this post a ton, and he brought up that Romans 15:1-3 also ties in to what I was saying about the strong having the bulk of the weight of maintaining this unity on their shoulders. Love my husband!! So wise!!!

  2. I pray for them. Because you’re right, although they are vexing in their righteousness, they fall short just like the rest of us and so I do feel empathy for their listens. And know God will deal w them someday. And I sure hope I never find myself among those who hear, “I knew you not.” Gulp! But yeah it can be painful. I try not to take it personal and to remember it’s not about me or my walk, it’s about them and theirs. Such people drive others away from God is the most tragic thing of all. 😦

  3. Bloom, you have no idea how much I admire how you view things like this and general red-pill women stuff, and also how I see you deal with people. It’s really beautiful and I learn a lot through watching you. My husband loves your site as well!!!! He just rarely comments sadly, but he’s often there with me reading in the morning ❤ .

    And yes this:
    "I sure hope I never find myself among those who hear, “I knew you not.” Gulp! "

    Is scary beyond belief, but I think it's a good thing to have a literal fear of God along with respect kind of fear for Him! I DO think MOST of any Romans 14 divisive type people actually are going to Heaven… which is so nice. The way IS narrow, but if anything, they're often the ones walking it super-duper narrow lol, more narrow than need-be many times, but at least they're walking out their faith right?

    But yea, the division this causes IS serious. I mean the fights in Ireland and the bloody persecution that happened all over England when Protestants and Catholics were against each other is kind of an example of how bad that can get 😦 But thankfully most Christians don't take it that far I think.

  4. In Orthodoxy, they are simply following their faith. In my opinion, the man you’re talking about is working toward the obedience his faith calls him to. There’s no “hypocrisy” or “arrogance” in that, just love for God.

    Just some food for thought to your post on this.

  5. It really is much better to just be kind, compassionate, forgive them for their legalistic leanings, and move on with your own life.

    I also wrote this in part for people I know who are annoyed with Lori Alexander, a woman I just really like for some reason. Is she a little too black and white sometimes, yes, and I can see how that annoys people who have different personal convictions. Is she violating Romans 14? Yes sometimes.

    The same thing applies:
    Compassion, forgiveness, and possibly avoidance if she bothers you that much. I’m not bothered by her for some reason 🙂 I still like her stuff even when it’s too legalistic for me. But there you go 😉

  6. I think the term “legalistic” gets confused a lot with proper obedience, and it causes a lot of people issue.

    Legalism is telling someone they must do ‘x’ to obtain salvation, where ‘x’ is something more than accept Jesus as ones lord and savior. We see this in play when Paul talks to those who were telling gentiles that they had to be circumcised to receive Christ, and he shut that down pretty quickly. Our faith and acceptance in Christ allows us to receive salvation, nothing more.

    That being said, our obedience proves our faith. Jesus said that those who love him obey his commandments. Not only does our obedience show our love for Christ, and that we are his, but it keeps those of the faith from blaspheming the word of God. Take, for example, the man Paul talks about who is sleeping with his fathers wife! The church wanted to show off how “compassionate” they were by accepting the guy, but Paul said “no!”. The activity was a clear violation of the law and thus sinful. Not only that, but he even said that the activity was unheard of even amongst the gentiles! What would those gentiles say about the followers of Christ if the church allowed the activity to continue?

    When the bible is clear on something then it is important that the church and other Christians point out where others Christians are blatantly in sin. This is not legalism, it is not only an attempt to “save a brother from fire”, but an important step in preventing the bride of Christ from taking on a bad name. We see this happening now with divorce rates. The divorce rate of Christians vs non-Christians is fairly thin, so the world says “what’s the point in a Christian marriage, then?”.

    Weak in faith is one thing, outright ignoring the law and commandments of the bible is another. Paul said have compassion on those who were weak in faith, yet he hit those who were in blatant disobedience like a homing missile.

  7. Hi Snapper,

    I think the definition is this:

    “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice”

    From here at least: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legalism

    The problem with certain types of faiths/denominations/sects, etc. that have “Canon Law,” is how much they require their Christian believers to follow it to a “T.” It’s not that they’ll lose their salvation, it’s that they’ll sin or be living in sin by making different choices.

    Many people, my husband included, consider legalism to be living under a yoke of slavery. A heavy yoke, much like what the Pharisees put on the Jews back in Jesus’ day. Legalism is often such a heavy yoke of slavery, that most people cannot abide by it in keeping all of the rules. It’s just too hard and extremely unpleasant longterm.

    Jesus came to set us free from that heavy yoke of having to obey every single detail to a “T” from the Jewish Laws. He ironically chastised the Pharisee leaders (spiritual authorities) who held their followers under such tight moral codes (that they themselves could not even follow) for this same sin.

    There was no one that Jesus was harsher to, than the authorities in the church who were responsible for holding the people to such incredible and fantastic standards.

    It’s interesting… I’ll say that. 🙂

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