Pentecost 15a: Distanced, Different, But Not Divided

The Second Reading for this Sunday is Romans 14:1-12


It contains words such as ideas:

  • Welcome, and do not judge others who have different convictions, and live differently than you.
  • Leave the judging to God, who is, after all, merciful and capable of helping the fallen get up and stand.
  • Ultimately, all differences are superseded by Oneness: the one great reality, that we all belong to the Lord who created and redeemed us.


Christian believers have an all important mission in these days of super stress and the centripetal force of judgmentalism. We must be zealous for the same message of oneness that Paul preached throughout his ministry, and emphasized in his letter to the Christians of Rome.  We have to maintain the Church as a great community of God’s Oneness to show the world how it can keep from tearing itself apart.


Surely we can taste how we hunger and thirst after community and belonging because we have been forced to socially distance. Oh, how wonderful it would be to be able to embrace one another, or even to simply sit close, have a beer, and talk over the ups and downs of the past week.


But being distanced let us not sever the ties that bind by surrendering to the demons of division.


Let us not scream and spit at each other over mask wearing. Let us not take our flags and signs and turn them into spears and bludgeons. Let us not absorb the lies and exaggerations of the talking heads who profit over our suspicions and fears of each other.


Distancing is okay. Differences are blessings. Division and despising of one another is wrong.

The Apostle Paul starts his letter in chapter 2 with a long talk about how terrible it is to judge and despise. Then he gets even more detailed here in chapter 14: Others seem weak to you because they have different convictions about what diet is the right one and which days are sacred. So what? Don’t despise them, don’t even simply tolerate them. Welcome them! Leave the judging to God. You depend on that God to let you off the hook for your sins—don’t try to deny that divine mercy to those who are different from you.


In Galatians Paul himself comes down hard on those who had their own convictions about another marker of difference—circumcision. But he came down hard there because his opponents were using circumcision to divide. Diet, holy days, or circumcision are completely optional as personal life choices. They are wrong when used to destroy the Oneness that God intends.


So, today, what flag or mask you wear is your choice. Your political party is a life option. But when you use these things to despise and judge—you are denying that you need God’s grace yourself, and that you need those other people. We all belong to the God of forgiveness and love. And that God wants us to know: Distancing is okay. Difference is okay. Division is not okay.




About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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