Focal passages: Romans 14:1-4, 13-19
When I became pastor of the church I serve, there was a man attending the church named Gary. During those early months, we had quite a few conversations about what it means to be a Christian. One day Gary came to my office and prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. He had a difficult time accepting that a simple prayer could forgive him of all his sins.
His faith wasn’t easy. Former addictions didn’t magically disappear. His relationship with his wife would eventually end, and Gary struggled with both his faith and loneliness. In all honesty, even though I invested countless hours into Gary’s life, I wasn’t sure that we – referring to the church and myself – were helping Gary progress spiritually. To make matters worse, Gary revealed he was dealing with cancer. He later moved, and I lost contact with him for years.
Life is complex. The issues that Paul and the Roman Christians struggled with were not easy. The three main issues that first century Christians struggled with were (1) Jewish holy days, (2) dietary rules and (3) sexual immorality. The great difficulty was differentiating between that which was accepted or rejected by God and that which was accepted or rejected by men. Paul spoke of two laws in Romans, the law of liberty and the law of love. In the Christian life the Kingdom is defined by their healthy convergence (vv. 17-19).
In a recent phone conversation, he described to me in precise detail that day he asked Christ into his life. Furthermore, he remarked how he was getting healthier physically, and was cancer-free. Some days later his new pastor called to thank me for investing in Gary’s life, and to tell me that Gary was their deacon vice-chairman.
I am grateful that our church stuck with Gary and accepted him, even when – like the Roman Christians – he was going through turbulent times.