The World According to kcillini77

March 7, 2008

The Weaker Brother…

Filed under: America,Christianity,Ethics,Family — kcillini77 @ 11:23 pm

Recently I had a discussion with a friend regarding Romans 14.

I’ve heard this passage used many times to suggest, for example, that even though Christians are free to consume alcohol (and it is mentioned multiple times in the Bible as a gift from God), discretion is necessary in public. The thought is that because a “weaker brother” may see us, we shouldn’t order that beer with our dinner at Applebee’s, though we might consume it at home behind closed doors.

My friend posed the scenario of a music pastor who believes that certain modern styles of music are inherently sinful. Though my friend believes music genre to be amoral, he contends that in this instance, he should consider the music pastor a “weaker brother” in regards to this issue. While he feels free to listen to the music he desires on his own time, he believes if he were to give the pastor a ride in his car he should not play a Casting Crowns CD out of deference to the pastor. He also contemplates whether he should take the added step of hiding the CD under the seat so that it is a non-issue.

I’ve spent some time reading and rereading that passage as well as some other writings of Paul and actions of Jesus in the gospel trying to come to my own conclusions. So far, here are my thoughts:

In Romans, Paul is speaking to a community that consists mostly of Jewish Christians. The Jews had lived their whole life learning and following the law, which included dietary restrictions, and so naturally there was some distress among new believers in Christ when they were told – hey, now you can eat this meat. The “weaker brother” is a Christian young in the faith who does not yet have a full understanding of the freedom that is in Christ. The implication is that as the weaker brother grows in his faith he will learn not to call that which Christ has declared clean unclean. But as the new Christian grows, the stronger brother is not to flaunt his freedom, and should not raise a huge stink over dietary issues, because they pale in comparison to the gospel.

There are lots of applications in today’s world. We should not drink in front of a brother we know to be an alcoholic or someone who has a past they don’t want to relive that was centered on alcohol. We should be careful with how we relate to someone coming out of a legalistic upbringing. If someone has been taught all their life that rock music is sin we shouldn’t crank up the volume and try to make sure they know what they’ve been missing out on.

From Romans 14: 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, we should gently nudge someone who holds legalistic views toward the truth that they ought not to judge someone who partakes. We should also encourage them to go deeper in the Word and discover whether the particular action or item they are against is truly forbidden. Often, it could in fact be a gift from the Lord, and the fear of abuse has prompted the prohibitions they have depended upon.

I do not see my friend’s pastor as the weaker brother. As someone who has been a Christian long enough to go through seminary and be elevated to a position of authority, he is accountable for his understanding of the gospel. He has chosen to take a moral stand on an issue of little consequence. I am not saying he is not a brother in Christ, but I am saying that from his position of authority he may be imparting unnecessary guilt and shame to his brothers in Christ who are merely exercising their Christian liberty. In fact, many of those people are experiencing the joy of Christ through the music they listen to, and he may be drawing them away from that joy by his insistence on this principle. I don’t mean to suggest this man needs to be accosted and be brought to an understanding, but that in truth and love the issue should be gradually addressed by people he comes in contact with.

Now, while I wouldn’t suggest my friend pump up the volume on his pastor in the car, the thought of hiding anything strikes me as a very misconstrued interpretation of Paul’s meaning. Anything we do for pleasure that we hide has connotations of being shameful. And if we hide our actions from a brother and he later discovers the truth about us, where does that leave us? We’re in a lurch trying to explain deception, when the action should have been a non-issue to begin with.

So, what are we to make of Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14? Be conscientious. Enjoy what God has made without abusing it. Accept those who haven’t fully comprehended the Gospel of Christ and its freedoms. Don’t flaunt your freedom in front of those who are still learning. But continue to encourage them to learn and grow. And if they are truly growing, they will eventually realize that the legalism they cling to is a crutch, and they will one day throw it to the side and walk alongside you, unencumbered.


June 13, 2007

Never Again?

Filed under: America,Christianity,Ethics,Kansas City,Kelsey Smith,Overland Park — kcillini77 @ 5:43 am

   Yesterday the family of young Kelsey Smith laid her to rest in a ceremony open to the public.  It was appropriate that the community be invited to the funeral, as the saga of her abduction and the discovery of her body was played out in the news media and everyone seemed to feel a connection.  She was taken from the parking lot of a Target just outside of Oak Park Mall, a place that nearly everyone in Kansas City has been to at some point in their life.  The entire community could relate to the incident.  The common sentiment was ‘that could have been my daughter (or wife, or sister, or cousin, or even me)’.  Kansas City reacted swiftly with an outpouring of support and volunteerism.  And when her body was discovered, the outrage was in unison.  Grief struck everyone hard and calls for justice were abundant (for evidence browse the comments on findkelsey.com in the entries relating to her discovery and the arrest).

What has struck me as an observer to this event is that when evil reaches a certain point there is near unaninimity in labeling it as such.  I have yet to hear someone excuse this tragedy as part of the circle of life or natural selection working itself out.  People know that this is evil and tragic, and they want justice.  But at the same time, it has struck me that this kind of evil is on display every day in the inner city, (Just a few weeks ago a toddler was killed in K.C. during a gunfight between his older cousins.  That barely made the paper.) in Iraq, in countless communities around the world.  The same evil that leads to events like this is going on daily in our suburbs in the form of thoughts, fantasy, pornography, and things going on behind closed doors that are hidden.  But we prefer to live in ignorance to these things.  When we do encounter them, we shrug them off and make excuses.  Someone making a video depicting a teenage girl being abducted and strangled for the purpose of entertainment would be protected by first ammendment rights.  In other words, it’s all fun and games until someone loses their life and we realize it’s for real.

What’s the answer?  It’s not censorship or tighter gun control or cameras on every corner.  It’s ceasing to pretend evil doesn’t exist.  It’s recognizing it in all people including ourselves.  It’s realizing that we can’t save ourselves from evil or do enough to protect ourselves or our family.  It’s putting our trust, hope, and faith in the only One who has no trace of evil in Him.  Jesus Saves.  All other hope is a smokescreen.

May 25, 2007

Latest KC Star Column

Filed under: America,Christianity,Church,Ethics,Family,Me — kcillini77 @ 7:05 pm

You can find my latest (and last, for now) column in the Kansas City Star by following this link.

April 17, 2007

How valuable is a life?

Filed under: Abortion,America,Baby,Christianity,Ethics,Family — kcillini77 @ 12:06 pm

This weekend the Kansas City Star ran a wonderfully written story about a couple who was faced with a serious dilemma.  The baby growing inside the mother’s womb would be unable to live once born.  This family made the decision to take the baby to term and deliver, and allowed a Star reporter to follow them during much of the pregnancy.  The resulting work is amazing, and incredibly thought provoking.    The first link is for a video slideshow narrarated by the mother.  It tells the story through words and pictures in about six minutes.  The article is in 2 parts and is much more detailed than the slideshow.  I recommend experiencing them all, but feel free to go in any order you choose.  I’m already registered for the Kansas City Star Online, so I’m not sure if you will be required to register or not.  If so, just do it (it’s free).

Grab your tissues, take a seat, and step into this family’s pain and great joy.

Loving Zeke – Slide Show

Love to Last a Lifetime – Article, Pt. 1

‘Hi. This is Mommy’ – Article, Pt. 2

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