Coffee and Other Horrible Sins
JUNE 13, 2023
Did you know coffee was almost a sin?
In the 16th century, the clergy called coffee satanic and asked Pope Clement VIII to ban it. Clement tasted it, decided he liked it, and not to ban it. I can almost guarantee you that if coffee hadn’t been to that guy’s liking, it would’ve gone down in religious culture as something we just ‘know’ is sinful. There’d be books, podcasts, and thousands of think-pieces on how we know the culture is so lost because they shop at that sin-ridden Starbucks (we’d call it something ‘clever’ like Sinbucks). Because that’s one way superficial things like that become a ‘sin’ when they really aren’t.
It’s funny how the little decisions we make about right and wrong can affect generations to come. (Think about those poor Christians who wouldn’t have a place to sit, drink a hot beverage, and write their articles on the evils of rock music and yoga pants had Clement thought coffee was disgusting.)
Thankfully, Romans 14 gives us instruction on how to handle it when we disagree on things that aren’t vital to the faith. It’s some really great advice that we often misuse (or ignore completely).
Romans 14:1-4: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 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.”
There’s a difference in saying your conscience will, or will not, allow you to do a thing, and saying your conscience is the same as God’s word. Our preferences are just that. Ours alone. That runs the gamut from political candidates to food to music preferences. It can be most anything. But our obsession with correcting others isn’t some new thing. It’s said that Moody once confronted Spurgeon, pointing at his cigar and saying it wasn’t honoring to God. Spurgeon responded by poking Moody in his rather round belly and saying that wasn’t honoring to God either. We gotta stop.
It’s hard to keep our preferences to ourselves. I get that. Some things are so personal and our reasons so spiritual to us that we get the idea that others are sinning if they don’t do what we do. That’s why Paul’s advice is so important to us. He’s giving us a way to deal with our need to correct, or feel better than, others. It may not be the answer we want, or the one that’s expedient to our circumstances, but it’s what God told him to say.
We lack respect for one another to a humongous degree in the church because we think our preferences are God’s preferences. Our personalized Christianity becomes the only one we can imagine another person having, and that’s not cool. We’ve got to respect the weaker brother and the weaker brother has to respect the strong. Why? Because we’re family, our preferences aren’t the only way, and, also, God said so.
Unless someone is going around telling others that they’ve got to do something aside from accept God’s free gift of Salvation to belong to God, we mostly need to chill. It’s not our job to make everyone else like us. Yet, we seem to believe our primary job as Christians is to correct other people. That’s silly. We’re not policemen, we’re brothers and sisters. So assigning ourselves the duty of correcting every non-essential thing is both a waste of time and disruptive to the community of believers we should be. Doctrine should be kept pure, but whether someone wears jeans to church or votes Democrat should be something we shrug at and move on. (and the fact that last sentence worked some of you up so much proves my point. …Oh, the comments I’ll receive!)
Love is how Jesus said the world will know we belonged to him. A supernatural, otherworldly love that overlooks the things that the world deems important. A love that transcends race, creed, sex, religion or political party. We’re so bad at that. I’m writing this because I’m so bad at it, too, and I do my best thinking on paper, so I’m hoping I’ll say something inspiring to myself here, too.
I want so badly for us to fall in love with each other. And that doesn’t begin with the other guy. It’s on my shoulders, and I want to take that responsibility very seriously. I want to love you, crazy opinions and all. I want to care about your soul whether you agree with me or not on any given subject. I want to love the jerks and the selfish and the rude and the disingenuous because Jesus loves me and I’m sometimes made up of those nasty adjectives too. I’m so not there, but God knows I want it (well, sometimes). And that’s all I’ve got to give. But, with Jesus, it’s enough.