A THANKFUL HEART & A CLEAN CONSCIENCE
Like most things this year, Thanksgiving has become controversial. To gather or not to gather. That is the question.
Opinions reside on either side of a great divide, strengthened by pride. (I couldn’t help myself. My mind rhymes all the time.) But in all seriousness, how do we find a way forward together when our convictions lead us to different conclusions about important matters? Thankfully, Romans 14 gives us some help.
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:5–8, NIV)
The apostle Paul wrote this to Christians in Rome who were divided on how they should follow the law of the Torah, which was the only Bible anybody had at the time. Jewish background believers felt strong convictions about keeping kosher and observing Sabbath. Gentile believers had no such convictions. In fact, some of them saw the Jewish convictions as superstitious and undermining our freedom in Christ. Instead of playing referee in their dispute, Paul encouraged them each to follow their conscience, give thanks to God, and stop judging each other.
“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (Romans 14:10, NIV)
We also should not encourage anyone to do anything that violates their own conscience. That is what I believe Paul means when he talks about causing your brother or sister to stumble. We trip them up when we encourage someone to go against their own conscience.
“The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:22–23, NRSV)
Every one of us is accountable to God for what we do. So we should act in faith according to our conscience. I don’t want you to do anything that violates your conscience. Enforcing uniformity destroys unity by harming the conscience.
This Thanksgiving, you can give thanks to God in your eating or in your abstaining. You are my brothers and sisters and I am thankful for you. However you celebrate, I pray you are blessed with a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. And whether you join us inside, outside or online Sunday as we begin Advent, please do it with a thankful heart and a clean conscience. – TR