Following last week’s article, Condemning the Innocent, a request was made for modern examples. Several come quickly to mind, but perhaps these would open a can of worms and obscure the point. However, there is a modern example that clearly is rooted in the text, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” (Rom. 14:5-6). There are some who believe it is wrong to celebrate Christmas, especially the decorating and lighting of trees. They have their stated reasons. They abstain to the Lord. Others believe Christmas ought to be celebrated with all it’s decorative grandeur. They too have their reasons and participate to the Lord.
On issues like this where the Bible isn’t absolutely clear, the key is to let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. The problem here is not a given position; it lies in considering any other position to be wrong. Agreeing with one position does not grant the right to disparage the other. When this happens, the innocent are condemned.
Where the Bible is not absolutely clear and debate ensues (and clear matters are not debated among those that respect biblical authority), then each one must be persuaded by the Spirit, embrace what the Spirit leads to on an individual basis, and give latitude for others to do the same.
There is another level of condemning the innocent, but listing such examples risks opening a can of worms. Suffice it to say traditions can be helpful, but taken too far, they can become harmful. Traditions should never be put on or above the level of God’s words. Jesus said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9). “Your own tradition” goes beyond God’s words. When this is the case, the innocent inevitably will be condemned.
Where God says “only” on a given matter, we must agree. But when we say “only” where God doesn’t, we end up condemning the innocent.
John Van Gelderen