Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 31 2013 - Romans 14:1-23 – The kingdom of God is ..

What are those things that cause divisions among Christians in your own experience? With the Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing there were divisions over food and drink and divisions concerning whether one day was to be considered more sacred than another. Paul reminds them that each person must give account for themselves before God. If we live – if we make use of certain gifts – we are to do so with conscious thanksgiving to God. If we die – if we deliberately deprive ourselves of certain things – we are to do so in conscious dedication to God. What each does or does not do is to be done in conscious dedication to the Lord and in a spirit of thanksgiving. Be careful, then, not to judge a Christian brother or sister or to look down upon them as not quite as mature or spiritual as you are.

Paul concludes this section by saying that the kingdom of God is not about food or drink but about righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is about righteousness: seeking to live moment by moment in the way we believe to be pleasing to God; doing all things for him and to him and not living to and for ourselves. It is about peace: we are to do all we can to live in fellowship with one another, valuing one another and putting the other person before ourselves (“practice playing second fiddle” as The Message wonderfully translates Romans 12:9); we are to encourage one another rather than judging and discouraging fellow Christians. It is about joy: it is living in a spirit of thankfulness and praise as we recognise the goodness of our God and the wonder of all that he has done for us in Christ. Above all, it is living by the Holy Spirit: righteousness, peace and joy in the kingdom are the fruit of his work within. We are to live by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit; that’s what kingdom living is all about.

What are those things that cause divisions among Christians in your own experience? What are those things that tempt you to judge a fellow Christian or that lead you to consider that they are not quite like you, not up to your standard? Are they really matters that are central to the kingdom of God? Or would Paul say to us that the kingdom of God is not about such things, it is about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

My conversion was amongst English Evangelicals. Later I went to study theology at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids. There I was confronted by Dutch Reformed Christians. It came as quite a culture shock – many of them smoked. It’s good to be confronted with Christians from other backgrounds whose cultural behaviour is very different from your own. It helps you to see through cultural prejudices to what it truly important – allegiance to Christ and love for him. And love for him must extend to love for and acceptance of his people in all their peculiarity. After all, we seek the same for ourselves.

We are called to enjoy the life of the kingdom; to enjoy it in fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, by your death upon the cross and glorious resurrection you have broken down the wall that divides one people from another. We delight in your purpose to embrace people from every background language and race and to make them your own. By your Spirit, break down our prejudices and enable us to accept one another as you have accepted us. Help us to delight in one another’s experience of you and to encourage one another in the life of discipleship. May your kingdom be made visible in our lives.

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Peter Misselbrook