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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

ThinkstockPhotos-484794034Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. - Romans 14:10-12
The devil is very cunning; he tempts us to think less of the very things that Jesus gave prominence to. Throughout the New Testament, the apostles along with Jesus emphasized the themes of unity and love for brother (1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4, 6; Philippians 1; John 17). Unity and love involve acts of strengthening, encouraging, comforting, caring for, exhorting, bearing of one another’s burdens and building up the church, all by means of the church empowered by the Holy Spirit. Listening to the Word of God recently, these verses stuck out to me with greater clarity than ever before. Paul asks two piercing questions, in his usual direct and upfront manner: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or, you [perhaps addressing someone specific here], why do you despise your brother?” In chapter 14, verses 1-9, Paul addresses issues regarding certain ceremonial aspects of the law: some are esteeming one day and others are esteeming a different day; some are eating food others view as unclean. Most definitely, judgment is being passed on one another over such matters. They have forgotten that, because of Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection, God has made all food clean (Acts 10:15) as a means of fulfilling the Law that we failed to fulfill; in the new covenant we are under the law of Christ, the law of love. The emphasis is relational. It is not the point to simply obey but it is to regard one another as more important than ourselves. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. On that basis we are brought into a covenant family with other Christians with whom we are to live peaceably, in harmony, strengthening and encouraging one another. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two (Ephesians 2:14-15).” Too often, we as believers find ourselves, although we are heirs with Christ of the same inheritance, quarreling and passing unhelpful judgment and criticism on one another, creating disunity and division.  

Paul essentially asks, why re-hash an issue that God has already pronounced a judgment on? To feel superior to your brother? Do you think that your (unrighteous) judgment trumps what God has already declared to be true? And why do you despise your brother? Do you hate him in your heart? Do you wish ill upon him? Paul follows up with, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” to make the point that, at the root of our judgment and hatred, we have placed ourselves in the place of God Himself, usurping power that only belongs to Him. Paul goes on to say that in the end, “every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess to God,” indicating how each and every one of us is on the same playing field, not to mention the same team, and each of us will give our own account to God, no one else. Scripture doesn’t say a whole lot about the kind of work we will be doing in eternity or what our relationships will look like exactly. However, it is made clear that we will be like Him which will unequivocally affect our relationships with one another! In light of that, on earth, as in Heaven, it matters deeply how we care for one another because it actually makes a difference in each other’s lives functionally as members of Christ’s body. And it is what we will be held accountable for on the last day.  

During this fast, let us come to God in repentance for coveting His power as Judge, and for often dressing our judgement up to make ourselves seem loving, yet not taking action to actually help a sister or brother turn from sin and toward the cross. Let us ask for clear consciences before God, not looking back in self-pity but releasing our sin to God who died for it all. 

Christine Shin
Ministry Fellow at Harvard