There are three points I notice in reading through this often mishandled passage. Paul commands us not to dispute over doubtful things, exhorts us to be fully convinced in our own minds, and warns us that we will give an account of these things when we are in heaven.
One thing I’ve learned about many fundamental evangelicals is that they are quick to debate over their opinions or convictions, willing to allow their teachers or some cleverly crafted argument on the internet to persuade their convictions, and then apathetically shrug off their responsibility to give an account to God by saying, “Well, if I’m wrong, I’ll be corrected when I get to heaven.”
I don’t have any problem with people explaining their position on certain areas when asked. If someone asks me why I hold to a certain opinion, I am glad to explain it. However, some people take this too far by looking for every opportunity to propagate their views in a way that contradicts Paul’s direct principle in Romans 14. Here, Paul’s purpose is for people to be free to disagree and yet recognize that their unity is not in thought but in Christ. The beauty of individual soul liberty is lost when everyone is an exact replica of each other. Diversity and unity is one of the miracles of grace and mercy. To abolish it, or argue it away, would not be conduct worthy of the gospel.
Paul tells us that we are all to be fully convinced in our own minds. This is a reccurring theme with Paul; he wants us as individuals to do the work of establishing our own faith. However, when we flood the airways with well crafted arguments on what to believe, how to think, and how to act, we do the work of seeking God for the people and all they really have to do is follow our direction. This is treading very close to pharisaicalism. When we add commands to the Bible that are not already there we do a great evil to detract from the individual process of seeking God. I love how A. W. Tozer describes this in his book The Pursuit of God.
“How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.”
Paul’s warning that we will give an account for our actions stands as a serious threat against the common Christian’s life. When we take this lightly by suggesting that when we get to heaven we’ll just be corrected and have a nice laugh that we were wrong all along, we neglect to take the weight of that moment when we stand before God and give an account of our lives. This will be a time of pain and sorrow as we realize how we have failed to fully seek the LORD in those particular areas. These won’t be times of light hearted observation, they will weigh heavily on our hearts, perhaps for the first time, as we realize what an agony those decisions were to the Savior who died for them. I imagine that most people don’t examine these areas fully because they don’t want to face the challenge of being fully convinced on their own, but when they stand before the Savior, they will long for a chance to suffer long and be fully convinced of the truth in order to prove what is right.
Out of all of this, I’m more convinced that discernment is not something we are striving for. Instead we strive for uniformity. If we are going to be affective in raising up the next generation to fear the LORD, we must first be willing to do the hard work of refining our own faith. If we teach the unabridged truth of Scripture to the next generation we run the risk that they will not share our same convictions, but if we teach them our convictions with an equal authority to the Scriptures, we run the risk that they won’t be able to see the difference. The latter is not a risk worth taking.
Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Romans 12:16