10 But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Abraham Maslow once said, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” The heart of this saying implies that we tend to have one vantage point or default way of interpreting and reacting to things. We each see the same world through our own individual lens, and sometimes we fail to realize just how different our perspectives and interpretations can be.
As a person who has spent the last ten years studying human behavior, I recognize ways that humans are similar and how their behaviors can be categorized. Despite these patterns and similarities, I am also consistently amazed by just how unique each of us really is. Our behavior may lend itself to being categorized, but there are an infinite number of values, life experiences and passions which also inform who we are and which render us extremely diverse. These viewpoints extend to how we each live the Christian faith we share and the many differences of conviction that result.
The Apostle Paul addresses this “same but different” paradox in Romans 14, as he continues his plea with the Roman church to be unified in their differences. In this chapter, Paul explains that there are many convictions and approaches to life which are important but non-essential to the Christian faith or salvation. He urges his brothers not to judge or condemn one another, because these differences often stem from contrasting but acceptable viewpoints.
Paul establishes that there are different convictions to our consciences as how to best obey Jesus, but as long as the person is genuinely seeking to honor God, then he is accepted by God (Romans 14:5-6). Paul urges his fellow believers to let God be the rightful and only judge.
In doing so, Paul frees us from having to go about our day acting as judge and jury, passing sentence on our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are freed from the heavy burden of having to scrutinize the actions and decisions of others. This freedom allows us to love one another and to learn from those differences which are not harmful, but which may provide new insights or approaches to our common faith.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What are some examples of essential beliefs of the Christian faith (see Matthew 22:34-36)? What are some examples of non-essential beliefs (see Romans 14:1-9)?
- Are there non-essential beliefs over which you struggle not to cast judgment on others?