To Engage or Not to Engage?By Jamie Maxim
June 19, 2020
As COVID-19 quarantine restrictions are being lifted, it’s becoming more and more obvious that we live amongst a multitude of perspectives on how and when we should return to our old normalcy. During quarantine, we have seen a range of behavior from folks: some wear masks, some don’t, some did not leave their homes except for periodic grocery runs, some ran errands whenever they felt necessary, some fully engaged in virtual socialization, some quickly tired from screen-time and disengaged.
Now, with recent current events, we are also confronted with social unrest and rioting. In mid-May, I felt a loss on how to navigate these waters. During that time, a friend of mine (who is a pastor also) said, “Our return from quarantine is like what Paul had to address when talking about food sacrificed to idols.” At first, the comment made me chuckle; but it also sparked my interest so I revisited Romans 14. Upon re-reading the text, I realized he was right. Here are some truths from Romans 14 that have helped our church navigate the myriad of perspectives surrounding re-engagement after quarantine:
Do Not Argue (14:1, “do not quarrel over opinions”)
It’s easy to hold tightly to our convictions over matters, but Paul recognizes that people can have differing opinions.
Do Not Judge (14:4, “Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another?”)
God has welcomed each believer into his family through the blood of Jesus. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are not responsible to us on the last day – they are responsible to the Almighty God. Let us not think we hold all wisdom and knowledge regarding the matters before us. This doesn’t mean we should disregard blatant sins. It means we must proceed carefully when addressing sins in others. We must ensure to only address legitimate sins, rather than differing convictions.
Do Not Waiver in Conviction (14:5, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”)
Let your yes be yes, and your no be no (James 5:12). There are lots of strong opinions out there, and lots of compelling perspectives from well-meaning Christians. Don’t be driven by the latest social media post. Pray…research…come to a firm conviction about how you feel regarding re-engaging with others…then pray some more. If we do not work to build our convictions before we engage in conversations, we risk adopting the perspectives of those with strong personalities, rather than pursuing the direction of God.
Do Not Lose Sight of God (14:12, “For each of us will give an account of himself to God.”)
Again, God alone is who we will stand before on the last day. When we consider our own opinions on current events, are we turning to the Word first or to those around us? When we engage with other believers, are we encouraging them to pursue the Lord first and foremost? Then, if they come to differing perspectives from our own, are we being respectful of the fact that they too sought the Lord before coming to their convictions?
Serve Others (14:13, “Rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”)
Since we are all able to come to our own conclusions, we may feel freedoms others do not. Having a different opinion from peers is not always wrong or sinful. Judging others or dismissing their opinions purely because they differ from our own is. Jesus Christ came not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). Are there practices you are not willing to give up for the sake of your brother who has come to a differing opinion than your own? Keep in mind what Jesus gave up for you.
Serve Christ (14:18, “Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.”)
When our focus is on Christ and not on ourselves, we bear fruit that is pleasing to God. Let’s not let a pursuit of self-gratification get in the way of serving our Savior.
Pursue Peace and Mutual Upbuilding (14:19, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”)
As believers, we are called to pursue the Lord and lovingly engage with the world in a way that is often contrary to society. Has the Lord presented opportunities for you to pursue peace rather than perpetuate discord? At present, our world seems to thrive on fault finding, vilifying, and tearing people down. Remember, we are called to build one another up in love.
In light of Romans 14, what it means to meet together during this season is going to look different for each church body, and even in each small group. We can be certain of one thing, however: the day of Christ’s return is drawing near. This season provides us an opportunity to show the world that we are Christians by the way that we love and respect one another, even when facing disagreements. Let us then encourage one another and build one another up (John 13:34-35; John 15:12; Romans 12:10; Gal 5:13; Eph 4:2).