Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
I have worshiped in many different Christian settings, from boisterous charismatic praise services to high liturgical congregations, from informal house church prayer services to three-hour-long African-American worship marathons. On the surface, these worship experiences look very different from one another, so much so that it might be hard for someone outside the Christian tradition to find any commonalities. But in Christ, each of these worship expressions are born of the same Spirit and bring honor and praise to God. The same can be said for other aspects of our spiritual lives. You may pray sitting in a quiet corner of your home, while someone else may pray in the car on the way to work. One person may honor God by abstaining from alcohol, while another may evangelize at the local bar. Each one of us must follow Christ as we feel led by the Spirit, and we also must leave room for others to follow in the ways they have been led.
In Paul’s day, everyone in the church was a new believer, having come to faith in Christ out of a culture that had never before heard the Gospel. There were no church traditions among the first generation of believers, and it’s clear from Paul’s letters that those earliest followers of Jesus wrestled with how best to organize the church and how to align themselves with Christ without removing themselves completely from the culture around them. Even 2,000 years into the church age, we still struggle with these issues and with the temptation to criticize other believers for not “doing church” our way. What matters most, Paul reminds us, is that we remain connected to Jesus who is the central reality of the faith we share in common with all Christians around the world and throughout history.
There are two sides to this coin. First, don’t be discouraged by others judging or criticizing your expressions of faith. If you are following Jesus, listening to the Spirit and obeying God’s word, then your ways of worship, prayer and service are just right for you in Christ. The other side of the coin is that you shouldn’t pass judgment on other believers for how they live out their faith in Christ as they follow Jesus, listen to the Spirit and obey God’s word. What unites us in Christ matters far more than what divides us. We should rejoice in the beautiful diversity of God’s Kingdom, just as we will rejoice forever alongside many brothers and sisters in heaven.Father, thank You for the Church and for every follower of Jesus. Help me to honor You with my whole heart and to encourage others in their walk of faith. Bless Your Church with strength, joy and unity, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian