Surrounded by servants and slaves to cater to their every need, wealthy Romans enjoyed their way of life. Many would hold regular dinner parties to impress their guests with exotic dishes. Poorer Romans, however, had a much different life. They lived in small shabby houses in the inner city that could collapse or burn at any given moment. In difficult times they abandoned their newborn babies to the streets in hopes that a rich household would take them on as a servant or slave. Human life was cheap in the days of the Roman Empire, but it is never cheap in the eyes of the Lord.
A Roman congregation mixed with rich and poor were quarreling over disputable matters. The apostle Paul addressed the issue in his letter. The first thing he did, he leveled the playing field by writing that every believer is accountable to the Lord. He wrote (Romans 14:4):
“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
In a Roman society that consists of masters and servants Paul brings them all together under one Master, Jesus. We all live and die for Him, we are judged by Him and ergo we don’t need to judge one another.
On a personal level, there is no value in diminishing other believers. Instead of wasting our energies in judging our own ranks, let’s contribute to something positive. The Lord calls us to make a difference in a hurting world. Since everyone is created in the image of God I believe this begins with showing respect for each person.
Let’s remember the very basics of our faith: God loves and cares for all people. Genocide therefore is a problem; racism is a problem; gender inequality is a problem. The Holy Spirit is at work every day to put a spotlight on things that are culturally the norm, but is against everything the Lord stands for.
Whether we like it or not, our faith is influenced by our culture – and we need to distinguish the parts of our culture that actually work against God. For this purpose the Holy Spirit will put corrective lenses in front of our spiritual eyes to help us see. We all answer to the Lord because He speaks to us in person; He wants to guide our hearts. We live for Him and we die for Him.