Not many people thoroughly read and study Romans 14. I don't know this because I walk around asking or surveying; I believe this with great certainty based on the evidence I see in many of our lives - and moreover, our attitudes and reactions to other people's lives, habits, and convictions. I also strongly believe this because of the tendency with many to believe that their convictions should be everybody else's. And as this happens, our conviction turns into our cause. We move from personal (private) conviction to open (public) soapbox. And sadly, what is most likely our motive - defending what we think is right - becomes not only clouded and muddied, but invisible and completely lost in translation. Let me give you an example.
Last night Morgan and Libby went "Trick or Treating". (Already, someone has read this and winced.) In our neighborhood, they approached a house where the lights were on, the family was in the yard having a good time, but there was an enormous sign on the door that read: WE DO NOT OBSERVE HALLOWEEN! (followed by a descriptive explanation of WHY you shouldn't either.) My wife watched as a few very young kids approached and said, "Trick or Treat!", only to hear one of the family members mumble under their breath, "Can't you read?!" My first thought upon hearing this story was, "NO. They CAN'T read! They are 6 year olds!" But what's more painful in this story is the stark realization that I don't believe for one second that my neighbors' desire in all of this was to communicate hate or anger. But that's exactly what was coming across. And the plain and simple reason why this happened: Their conviction had become their cause!
Please hear me: I'm not saying that there aren't some things in this world we aren't supposed to speak out against. Standing up and saying that abortion is wrong - yes. Defending the orphan and the widow from oppression and hunger - absolutely. Doing everything in our power to eliminate slavery and human trafficking - without a doubt! But the lines begin to blur when our personal conviction over whether or not to dress up like a Power Ranger and roam the neighborhood in pursuit of sugar (or) to lock our doors, turn off our lights, and pretend we're not home becomes our mission in life. When we start thinking that everyone else needs to care about the environment as much as we do or that everyone else should give to the humane society or that every living breathing human being owes it to the world to protest gambling, prohibit the sale of guns and alcohol, or to publicly renounce Halloween, our conviction is no longer our conviction - it's our cause. And when we MAKE our conviction our cause, we begin to believe that it should be everyone else's conviction. And there is grave danger in this!
"Those who think it is alright to eat anything must not look down on those who won't. And those who won't eat certain foods must not condemn those who do. For God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let Him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord's power will help them do as they should." (Romans 14:3-4)
I've wrestled and struggled with this before myself. Have you?
Has your conviction become your cause?
More to come....