The breakfast was delicious! The two men had returned on the subway, one from a workout, the other from his church. They began a conversation, had some things in common, and decided to grab breakfast. The conversation went well for about ten minutes, and then something happened; politics. They were virtually opposed on every issue. It got heated as the church-goer was handing out a shellacking. The athlete was calm and tried to reason out the problems. The guy from church insisted he was right, the other was wrong, end of the story. He was so enraged that he ended up walking out, sticking the other guy with the bill. The problem was he didn’t understand what kingdom living looked like in today’s world. He didn’t know how to be righteous when arguing.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” – Romans 14:17-18
Paul begins chapter 14 by explaining that some people eat meat in his day; some eat only vegetables. Some consider one day sacred; others do not. Some eat food offered to idols, and some do not. The reference was to purchasing meat in the market that had previously been offered to idols. People didn’t know what to do with that. They were confused and quarreling. But then, throughout the chapter, he reminds them of a few things: each one should be fully convinced in his mind; don’t judge or look down on others; we will all stand before God and give an account of our lives, so stop passing judgment.
So, when we get to verse 17, Paul emphasizes that God’s kingdom isn’t about these issues. To be concerned with such matters misses the essence of Christian living entirely. It’s not about eating and drinking. So, what is it about?
He tells us. He says the kingdom of God is of righteousness, peace, and joy. So, what we eat or don’t eat; drink or don’t drink; say or don’t say; how we vote or if we vote; anything we do or don’t do must be done in righteousness, joy, and peace. You can be right about an issue but wrong about your relationships.
How To Be Righteous When Arguing
The bottom line is this: it’s more important to be righteous than it is to be right.
Why? Because we want to maintain the relationship. And what happens if we do this? Paul says that anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. If we strive to be righteous instead of being right, we please God and gain men’s approval. If we live this way, both accept us.
If we don’t do this, we will concern ourselves with trivial matters that don’t contribute to God’s kingdom. But, if we live in righteousness, peace, and joy, we will be serving Christ.
The church-goer could have been righteous by having a civil conversation. And they would still be friends. And, instead of seeing right and wrong, he could’ve seen the other person.