As human beings we are so attached to the tangible. Because of that we tend to want to turn the practice of our faith toward physical things — things we can see, taste, hear, touch.
For the Christians in first-century Rome this became a thing about what food believers should eat, and what food they shouldn’t eat.
Over the years, there have been various manifestations of this same debate, all of them involving things that God gives us complete freedom to choose. I’m talking about things like…
- What Christians should wear
- How Christians should have fun
- What music Christians should listen to
- What are the only “correct” worship practices for Christians
- What habits should Christians have
- What jewelry Christians should wear
Paul instructs the Romans that God has left certain things in the area of Christian freedom. He’s left it up to us to make choices, and we are completely free to make our choices. Choose to eat, or not to eat. Choose to wear it, or don’t choose to wear it. There’s no commandment from God on this particular aspect of life, so it’s up to you.
The only check on our choices is that we would make loving choices, taking into account the consciences of others, and not going out of our way to trip others up in their faith.
Where Paul wants our focus to be is on the intangibles. He mentions the important ones specifically.
Pursuing these is what pleases God. Pursuing these is what builds faith. Pursuing these will often, Paul notes, even lead to the admiration and respect of those around us.
Interestingly, pursuing righteousness, peace and joy — in God’s way of working things — really means not running away from them. Because in reality, we’re not the ones pursuing God. God is the one pursuing us, and he is the one who wants to give us righteousness, peace and joy.
How does he pursue us with these gifts? He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. Jesus pursued us through living a perfect life in our place, by going to the cross for us, and most of all, by rising from the tomb. He did this all so he could give us his divine, perfect righteousness, peace and joy.
And he still pursues us with these gifts. Today he pursues us by sending the Holy Spirit, which he promises to do when we read and listen to the Bible, or when we have the waters of baptism poured on us, or when we eat and drink Christ’s body and blood in communion.
And where do we get these things? Most of us find them at church.
So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself down there!
“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” (Romans 14:17-18, NIV).
Our Bible reading for Friday, July 31, 1 Chronicles 9:1 – 10:14, Romans 14:1-18 and Proverbs 18:17 – 19:2.
Lord, help me to enjoy my Christian freedom in the areas where you have left things open to my judgment. Most of all, help me keep my eyes and my heart focused on the pursuit of your righteousness, peace and joy, which I find in my Savior Jesus.
Header image based on "Roadside Church" by Nicholas A. Tonelli, CC By 2.0