Romans 14:7-8 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
The point the Apostle Paul is seeking to make throughout this chapter is that we should be more concerned and diligent about our own sanctification than about the sanctification of fellow believers. He is spelling out in detail – especially in regard to differences of opinion over beliefs relating to food and drink, but equally applicable to other aspects of Christian living – the application of points he had made in Chapter 12: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (3); “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.” (10); “Be … faithful in prayer.” (12); “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (16).
One of Satan’s effective tools is to focus our minds on our own progress in the Lord in those things in which it compares favourably (at least in our own eyes!) with the progress of others in our fellowship; he loves it if we can be labelled (rightly or wrongly – it matters little to him) with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude; and he has become quite a master at making good use of Facebook and other social media to achieve his purposes in this regard! We must never forget that we are just one part of a community of faith, part of the ‘body of Christ’; and although we should therefore be concerned about how others, particularly those under our care, are growing in godliness, we should be careful never to let this concern make us blind to our own weaknesses and failures – our own lack of progress in godliness!
We are to be good mentors and good role models, in faith and works; but we are not to set ourselves up as the judge of others, as Jesus warns in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5. We must remember that we cannot know all the circumstances that impact upon the lives and behaviour of others, nor what the sovereign Lord’s particular ‘program’ or plan is for them. There were some things about which Paul had very fixed opinions and on which he stood very firm, like the danger of thinking that circumcision was necessary for salvation (as in his strong letter to the Galatians). But his real pastoral heart is revealed in the way he deals generally with the differing views/sensitivities of others. His ‘bottom line’ is expressed in a song by Michael Morrow: “This life I live is not my own, for my Redeemer paid the price; he took it to be his alone, to be his treasure and his prize.”
– Bruce Christian