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Weak and Strong

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Paul’s charter of Christian liberty and mutual tolerance1

It seems trivial: special days and special foods: so what! But to think that way is to miss out on what these things actually meant for the people receiving Paul's letter. In Romans no single subject is discussed at such length as this topic.

It was serious in Rome because it threatened to undermine the unity of the church: this is no minor matter for Paul.

He calls one side in the argument "weak", the other side "strong".

I think there could have been a few people offended by these name tags. I would be scared to assign such names to groups in the church today!

The Weak:

in this case more conservative values, more traditional beliefs and practices.

food, special days: defining for the Jewish community, and sort of defining for the Christian community in largely Jewish sub cultures. In Rome there were many Christians who observed these rules legalistically. Their special day of rest cut them off from trade on a Saturday; their cleansing rules cut them off from public meeting places' their food rules prevented them coming into contact with non-believers.

Were they in today's culture they would probably be Strict Brethren. Paul strangely here calls them "weak"

The Strong:

in this case more liberal values, more relaxed practices yet just as strongly held beliefs.

food, special days: these have nothing to do with us: we are not Jews, therefore w can observe whatever days or none we like. We can fit in to society around us provided we do not compromise our community by doing so.

Were they in today's culture we would probably call them loose or liberal. Paul calls the "strong"!

So how are they to deal with such disagreements?

1. v 3-4 Accept each other

- not condemning each other. a real respect among fellow believers across the spectrum of Christian liberty2

2. v 5 Be convinced

- you can both be right before God It was not necessary for one to be wrong for the other to be right. 3

3. v 6 Remember God

- our liberty must not offend: we live to the Lord.

4 v 7-9 Freedom received means freedom offered

- what's good for me is good for you!


NOT? Am I in Danger of doing precisely the opposite of what Paul teaches by determining for my own benefit the limits of this teaching? To say clearly this doesn't apply in matters of... fill the blank... because that would distort the gospel!

Fundamental Issues and Secondary Issues:

Probably theology of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. is PRIMARY.

Probably the central authority of scripture, the call to loyalty in the church is PRIMARY

Possibly the role of genders in the church, nature of ordination, interpretation of particular scriptures are SECONDARY matters.

Let us agree on what is primary and agree to disagree on what is secondary.

Does what divides the anglican communion fit into the theology of this?

How can one issue: sexuality, be so fundamental? This is what defines society today: its morality and its tolerance.

Homosexuality is either a secondary issue in which case people should agree to differ, or it is a primary issue in which case people should find common belief from scripture and live with that.

A complexity arises:

When those who regard it as a secondary issue (so they want to be allowed to have radical opinions) also regard it as a fundamental human right (so they demand that their opinion is centrally adopted) You can't have it both ways.

The problem is that we are not disagreeing with foods and days, each able to do their own thing: we live in a world where the more liberal wish to impose their views on the more conservative, without due thought; and the more conservative find no option but to run for the covers. The opposite could probably be said too.

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