Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 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. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
God’s invitation to new life through Christ is open to everyone. As a result, faith in Christ joins people who probably wouldn’t otherwise spend time together. Our tendency is to choose communities that act like us, look like us, believe like us, and vote like us. But the body of Christ is made up of all kinds of people. This was true in Paul’s day too. The church in Rome saw Jews who were steeped in strong customs, history, and traditions come into relationship (for the first time) with Gentiles who had their own customs, history, and traditions. What typically happens when such diverse groups come together? Conflict, judgment, a desire to be right, and segregation. What does God desire to happen? Unity, understanding, compassion, and submission to one another in love. Diverse community gives us a glimpse of heaven and grows us in Christlikeness, but we’ll never experience it unless we step into diversity.
Reflect on your circles of community (at church, at work, in your neighborhood, at school). How much diversity (think looks, beliefs, voting preferences, actions, income) exists in those circles? What do you think gets missed in a homogeneous community?
What people or people group do you most often get riled up about or judge? Why? What underlies your judgments? (Fear, lack of knowledge or understanding, insecurity, a desire to be right, something else?)
What questions might you ask of someone who holds convictions and preferences with which you strongly disagree? How would you seek to understand with an open and compassionate heart?
God, please expand my heart and my view of the world. I can be narrow-minded and judgmental. Forgive me for the ways I have judged people who are different than me. Fill me anew with your Spirit and allow me to ask questions, be curious, and seek to understand. Keep transforming me and continue breaking me open for the sake of gospel and this world. Amen.