Author Topic: Judging Another's Servant  (Read 339 times)

Dan Fienen

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Judging Another's Servant
« on: September 16, 2020, 03:11:54 PM »
In looking at the readings for last Sunday, September 13, the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, Series A, Proper 19, Romans 14:1-12, I was especially struck by verse 4. "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." The immediate context is the dispute over eating meat that had been associated with idol sacrifices. In the next paragraph Paul also extends it to the observance of holy days. How can we apply this pericope to our sometimes-heated discussions on this forum?

Terms of approbation and disapprobation abound. Orthodox, heterodox, and heresy are bandied about. Terms for various people generally considered rude are used, often seemingly with the intention of rudeness while claiming to be simply "telling it like it is." This behavior does not come only from one end of the theological, social, or political spectrum. One poster habitually questions how a Christian concerned about morality could dream of voting for or defending one presidential candidate. Or how those who have not modified their understanding of how God wants the church to be run or who is to be ordained have simply not been listening to the Holy Spirit or actively resisting God's will. From all sides of any issue it is commonplace to consider those who disagree as deficient in intelligence, faithfulness, piety, or morality. Here Paul argues against such attitudes.

In Paul's day there were a number issues that could divide Christians. They had not yet hardened into what we today have as denominations, but there certainly were recognizable groupings, such as Christians who followed Paul and James's party. It is, I think inevitable that Christians of similar beliefs would band together, eventually forming organization to promote their understanding of the faith. Membership within such a grouping would depend in part on sharing those identifying beliefs. Rejecting those beliefs would naturally eventuate in leaving that grouping. But across those groupings, how should we treat each other?

Each religious group or denomination decides for itself what the requirements are for maintaining membership are and what the limits are for dissent. Maintaining those boundaries is the responsibility of that group. It is not for those outside the group, even if they are a similar group to make that determination. So, for example it is not really for me as an LCMS pastor to decide that a member of the ELCA is a heretic. That is for them to decide. ELCA members are not under my ecclesiastical supervision. They are servants of the same God that I am, but under different authority. The most that I can say is that something that they wrote sounded to me to be similar to a recognized heresy, or that I think that something that they wrote sounded wrong to me and why. Of course, I must accept that they may also find things that I write to be wrong. It is not my place to judge the state of their soul, merely state my disagreement.

One area disagreement between the LCMS and ELCA is over who should be ordained. We are more restrictive. So how should I treat an ordained ELCA minister who in my LCMS understanding of the matter would be disqualified for ordination? She is not my servant, nor is she a servant under the same disciple that I am a servant to. It is not my place to judge whether or not she should have been ordained. If she fulfilled the requirements that her discipline (the ELCA) established, she is an ordained minister in that disciple just as I am in mine, and deserves the same courtesy, dignity, and respect from me that I do from her. In other words, I should treat her as I would treat any other pastor from a denomination in which we are not in altar and pulpit fellowship. We both imperfectly serve the same over all master even if our understanding of the terms of that service contradict each other. Who knows, in the end I could be as wrong as she is or she could be as correct as I am.

Our disagreements certainly become heated in this forum, and at times in anger we become intemperate in our language to each other. I repent of the times when I have offended and do strive to be more respectful. We all (well most of us, I can think of one poster who has stated he doesn’t serve God) serve one master and are responsible to Him through the ecclesiastical order in which we serve. It is not for me to judge someone else’s (God’s) servant unless that judgement has been delegated to me. With the exception of the few Bishops or District Presidents who post here who are the supervisors of others, none of us have authority over others, nor should we exercise that.

Please, let us be respectful and polite to each other even when we disagree, and even when someone is so obviously in the wrong. As Paul wrote, Galatians 6:1 (ESV), “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Judging Another's Servant
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2020, 08:33:16 PM »
I've mentioned this before, Jews and Roman Catholics do a pretty good job at seeing their rules as applying to their own people. From the Jewish perspective, Gentiles could eat bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with cheese. They could not. It was against God's rules for the Jews. Gentiles could work on the seventh day. They could not. It was against God's rules for the Jews.


Roman Catholics can let Protestants ordain married men. They (normally) do not. Celibacy is a rule for Roman Catholics. They can recognize weddings of Protestants outside of their church, but not Roman Catholics who are under their rules of the sacrament of marriage. I've observed and had it confirmed by many female clergy, that they are often better accepted by RC priests than by other Protestants. The priests recognize that other church bodies do not fall under their restrictions for ordination.
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Judging Another's Servant
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2020, 08:42:39 PM »
One midweek Lenten series I spent on Romans. The following are my comments on Romans 14:1-12.

“Weak in faith” = having “differences of opinion” = having one’s “own convictions” (v. 5b) different than mine.

Eating everything vs. eating only vegetables
Eating everything vs. eating a kosher diet
Some days more important vs. all days the same.

Probably differences between Jewish and Gentile Christians – kosher diet and special Jewish days of celebration
Three categories:
• things forbidden by God
• things commanded by God
• other things (adiaphora)

wear vestments or not for worship
wear suit and tie or not for worship

drink alcohol, play cards, gamble, serve in the military, opinion about capital punishment, tattoos, etc. Christians can and do differ.

Republicans and Democrats – which party has the best policies for our country? We differ.

“respect the bound consciences of others” – along with love one another and bear each other’s burdens

Dodgers and Giants – favorite team, but cannot let personal opinion result in beating up a supporter of the other team.

Guests have come for dinner and one is a vegetarian or diabetic – consider their dietary needs.

Crusaders – killed Eastern Orthodox Christians as well as Muslims.

Whatever we do, we do for the Lord – as a response to God’s grace that has come to me and recognize it is also given to my neighbor who has different convictions. There may be more than one way to respond to God's grace.

May own understanding may not be the only way.
Brian Stoffregen
“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.” ― Albert Einstein

Dan Fienen

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Re: Judging Another's Servant
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2020, 11:23:08 AM »
Some people here are way too defensive about their beliefs, which would suggest to me that they are either insecure in them Or that they are spiritually unable to discuss other views Without first denouncing those who hold them. Puzzling, that is, to me.

Rather than derail the thread on the Nuclear Family, I thought that I'd bring back this thread.


Let me stipulate that the internet manners of some who post on this forum leave a bit to be desired. I'll even stipulate that at times most of us are less gracious than we should be, me of course included. Some of us over react when our cherished beliefs are challenged. Some of us are also way too eager to diagnose motivations, especially insecurity and fear to those who challenge them.


I reiterate what I said in the beginning of this thread. It is not our place in these discussions to judge the faith or sincerity of others who post here. That includes not only judging those from the ELCA and are Liberal/Progressive but also judging the faith or sincerity of those who are LCMS or Conservative/Traditional, even those who prefer Trump or Republicans over Biden or Democrats. For all his objection to the disparaging comments made about his or Pr. Stoffregen's theology or politics, Pr. Austin is in no way shy about questioning the morality, sincerity, or sanity of those who disagree with him. I learned long ago that the precept "Do as I say, not as I do," rarely is effective.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Weedon

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Re: Judging Another's Servant
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2020, 11:28:08 AM »
One is defensive about beliefs, if one has any common sense at all, when those beliefs are being attacked in an unjust manner. And so it is no insecurity to rebuff the attack, but it is rather conviction of the correctness of one’s belief that leads one to show (or attempt to show) why the attack is baseless. I mean, we DO have a document called the Apology, right? The DEFENSE of the Augsburg Confession (our belief) when it was unjustly attacked.
William Weedon, Assistant Pastor
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Charles Austin

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Re: Judging Another's Servant
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2020, 11:37:32 AM »
Pastor Weedon writes:
One is defensive about beliefs, if one has any common sense at all, when those beliefs are being attacked in an unjust manner.
I comment:
And just what is "attacked in an unjust manner"? The hyper-defensiveness I see often in this modest forum comes when it is simply suggested, that suggestion usually supported with some thought, scripture and confessional thinking, that a position might be wrong.
In my humble view, being "attacked in an unjust manner" sometimes happens when one's viewpoint is slammed by someone ignorant of what that viewpoint really is, or how it came about, or how it is supported or simply and solely because it conflicts with the attacker's own position. 
Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Now in Minnesota. Missing NY/NJ and trips to Europe. But the dining room at our "ranch" is now open and some activities - with virus restrictions - are returning. For which, thanks.