“... for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23b)
Proceeding From Faith in God
Paul writes the words quoted above to the Christians in Rome. The context involves him advising believers to not cause other believers to stumble in their faith by eating foods that others consider to be unclean, even if those foods are clean. “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat...” (Romans 14:20) The broader context is one of love (see Romans 13:8-10) and of living in a way that builds up the community (see Romans 14:19). Love, by definition, takes others - and their well-being - into account.
I am also interested in the impact of Paul’s words, standing alone. “... for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
If my actions are not proceeding from faith in God, and what I hear God guiding me to do - which, by the way, will always be grounded in love - then I am doing something sinful, i.e., my actions are “missing the mark”. Another way to discern if something I am doing is sinful is to ask if it is having the effect of separating me from God, another person, or creation.
So... if my actions proceed from greed, that is sin.
If my actions proceed primarily from fear, and not faith, that is sin.
If my actions proceed from resentment or bitterness or wanting revenge, that is sin.
If my actions proceed from a desire to be right, and I am putting that ahead of the health of the relationship, that is sin.
If I hear God calling me to do something, and I ignore that call or I am lazy or apathetic or make excuses for why I cannot do the thing that God is calling me to do, then that is sin.
There is an implication in Paul’s words, and the implication is that we will be listening for God’s direction, God’s guidance, God’s words to us. There is also an implication that we will be familiar with the commandments of God and the actions and teachings of Christ. For being faithful to God/Christ/Spirit means doing the same type of things that God/Christ/Spirit does.
This faithfulness business can get down to the little things, the day-to-day “basics” of our lives. On any given day, I may hear the Spirit say “You should call so-and-so right now.” I might hear Jesus say, “The person who is standing in front of you right now: Listen to her! Encourage him! Don’t be rushed or preoccupied. Spend some time with him.” I might hear God say, “It’s time to pay attention to your finances again - to your spending, to your saving, to your giving. This is part of the spiritual life.” I meet hear the Spirit say, “No technology or TV tonight. I don’t even want you to read. It’s time to connect with your spouse (or child or sibling or parent or friend).” Or, maybe I’ll hear Jesus say to me, as he said to the disciples now and then, “Come away to a deserted place and rest a while.”
If I hear something like that, and I act on what I am hearing, then I am being faithful. If I hear a message from God, and act from some other motivation, especially one that is not based in love, then I am being sinful.
“Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” What do you think? Do you agree with Paul?
If you do, then it makes sense that you and I would pay close attention to the motivation for our actions.
May you find us faithful, O Lord.