Bible Society of South Africa

Peace for all – 22 September 2022

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

17For God's Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of the righteousness, peace, and joy which the Holy Spirit gives.

Romans 14:17GNBOpen in Bible reader

In this chapter from Romans, we find one of the most important pronouncements about the kingdom of God. Paul brings, into the limelight, the fact that the kingdom is about our relationship with other people and especially with our fellow believers. In the letter to the Romans, we find many references to love for one another. From chapter 12:9 onwards, this idea is worked out in more detail. Just listen to Romans 13:8a: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another”. In addition, chapter 14:13a: “Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another”.

One of the things that gave rise to Paul admonishing them and giving certain directives was an argument in the church about what rituals and dogma were important, and what were not important. At the core of the dispute were days for fasting, which foods were allowed and the idea that some days are more sacred than others are.

This argument was seemingly not trivial, as can be seen from the words used by Paul – words like “judge your brother” or “look down on your brother”. Paul addressed both sides. Those who are “strong” in their faith and believed that everyone should be free to eat any food and decide about matters, like fasting, should not look down on those with less faith. Those whose faith are not so strong should not, on the other hand, condemn those who think more liberally about food and fasting, and do not adhere to very strict rules.

Does this sound very familiar? Alas, all too familiar! Through the ages, these differences did not diminish at all, both between individuals and between churches. Individual “believers” take each other on in the most unchristian-like manner, in letters to the newspapers. On social media, it is even worse to see how “believers” insult each other. The rift between churches can become so serious that no reconciliation seems possible.

In the verse for today, Paul stressed the fact that the kingdom of God is not about food and drink, and may I add, also not about our bickering that ended up as great rifts between people. His kingdom is about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. Let us, reading this today, start to “… make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification”. (Romans 14:19)

Prayer: We pray that you will forgive us, churches and believers alike, for often making a caricature of your kingdom, before the eyes of the world, because our egos are so big that there is no space for one another. Please help us to really find peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Amen

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