Advent (noun): “The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event”
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
We are in the season that the (Christian) church calls “advent.” This season is the weeks leading up to Christmas day (including the four Sundays before Christmas). I have always found Romans 14: 13-19 helpful to read and ingest and try to live out during this season.
“13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if another is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
Yeah, probably not what you were expecting for this holiday season.
But, it’s the holidays. Which means so many things to so many people. Joy, laughter, music, singing, presents, family, friends, awkward dinners, stressful planning, consumerism, cold weather, snow, fireplaces, bad memories, fun traditions. So many things. And if you’re like me, it can be difficult navigating amongst family and friends whom you don’t always interact with.
Which is why this is one of my favorite (and needed) passages that I return to each year.
Here’s why: judging is easy. We all have a cousin or in-law that has that one thing that just annoys us. Or, we have preferences that, for some reason, clash more than usual with others preferences during this time. Which is why Paul reminds (commands) us to “not pass judgment on one another any longer” and to “never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.” Just like when Jesus told us to “judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).
This passage is a needed reminder to not judge others, but to judge myself.
Walking in love is hard. We all have a tendency to turn inwards and be selfish and self-centered. Especially around family. They can get under our skin quicker than anyone. Which is why I need to be reminded (challenged) to not grieve anyone by what I eat (drink, do, say). Paul says that our eating can “destroy the one for whom Christ died.” Wow. He’s not playing around.
This passage is a needed reminder that what I have decided as “best” might not be the same for others, and this is okay at times. My decisions in what I eat or drink are mine. Do not judge another for what they eat or drink. And, if you eat or drink something that would, at best, annoy, and at worst, destroy someone around you, don’t eat or drink it. It’s that simple (okay, hard).
I need this reminder to be thinking of others, and not just myself, when it comes to holiday get-togethers.
Finally, let us “pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding” (emphasis added). If you like to debate politics and you love the phrase “iron sharpens iron,” but those around you can’t stand it, stop. If something is only uplifting for one side and isn’t mutually upbuilding, we are not supposed to pursue it. A.k.a. stop it. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
When we are with family and friends and loved ones this holiday season, may we all seek righteousness and peace and joy and mutual upbuilding in the Holy Spirit. May we not hinder others by what we eat or drink or do or say. Instead, seek peace, seek joy, laugh. And walk in love as we wait for the arrival of our King and Savior and Lord as a baby in a manger. Happy Advent!
Written by Pastor Ron Radcliffe