Thankfulness is our common groundWhile the first part of Paul's letter to the church in Rome was primarily theological and about the message he preached, there are some practical issues Paul addresses in the second half of his letter.
One of the key issues was the diversity in the church in Rome. There were Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. They'd all come to faith in different ways, some through Paul, some through Peter, some through other faithful preachers.
As you can imagine, there were some nuances in understanding and applying the faith to day to day life. Some for example, clung tightly to the holy days and festivals of the Old Testament, while others felt that every day was a special gift of grace. There were some Christians who didn't feel comfortable eating the meat sold in temple butcheries because they felt this dishonoured God, whereas others felt that because God is king over all, they could simply thank Him as the one who created the world (and their meat) and eating it in thankfulness would glorify Him. There were even some Christians who became vegetarians.
People started looking down on those who worshiped God differently and the potential for division and acrimony was very real.
Paul presents an approach that one might naively label as "tolerant", but when one looks deeply, Paul calls us to live God-centered lives and this starts with thankfulness.
When we take our eyes off God we begin to focus on each other and see the differences. When our eyes are on Christ and we are filled with gratitude for what He has done for us, we are more likely to appreciate the similarities rather than the differences we have with our fellow believers.
A critical spirit is often the symptom of a lack of gratitude.
|One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans14:5-8)|