It is so easy to see that sometimes the church is not focused on the true Kingdom of God. That may not seem quite right at first glimpse, but look deeper into the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 14 and see if you can wrap your brain around this concept.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
How many times do we as a church place eating and drinking at the center of the issue? Okay, we never talk about eating because we don’t view gluttony as a sin. And some denominations still wrestle with whether or not to drink alcohol, which even members of the same church can’t agree on. But in my view, Paul is talking about something much deeper. Yes to the first century Christians he was writing to eating and drinking were the issues, but what has replaced those in the church today?
In 21st century American Christianity the issues may not be food and wine, but types of music. Maybe it is political party affiliation. Maybe it is how to spend money in the church. Maybe it is style of leadership. These issues have become the issues that divide the church and keep us from having the life of power in the Spirit of God that he has designed for us.
If we look at the passage, what we really see is that Paul is calling us to put aside our own personal preferences or desires and to focus on the major aspects of community that the church should be about. We are to lay aside our preferences for the good of others. We are to set aside our agenda for the agenda of God.
What Paul calls us to follow is a life of living rightly in God’s eyes; seek peace through giving preference to others over ourselves and to seeking out joy over complaining. The result of this type of life is a unified community seeking the honor and glory of God and not the agenda and prideful desires of man. If we were really honest we would say that our lives are not always seeking these areas because they require sacrifice. They require self-discipline. They require not getting our way.
What would the church look like today if we truly sought righteousness, peace and joy?