Reflections by Jeremy Alger

I keep a running list of ideas for this column. There have been weeks when the deadline for print has been approaching and my mind was empty! So I have learned to keep this list handy and stay ahead of the idea game.

On my list for this week I simply wrote Romans 14. I guess in a recent time of study something about that chapter spoke to me in a way that I was confident would be clear when I read this post-it today. I re-read Romans 14 just now, and it isn’t exactly clear what I was drawn to before.

The chapter is sub-titled, “the danger of criticism.” There certainly is great danger in criticism. A critical spirit can hinder the spirits of those around it. It also hurts the one within whom it lives. A critical heart is less likely to receive a compliment, find joy in an experience, and ultimately to feel loved. We could easily link criticizing with judging. And it seems that everyone is familiar with the passage in Matthew chapter 7 that says, “Judge not, or you will be judged.”

But I want to focus in on three verses in Romans 14. There chapter talks about the different issues and friction in the early church. As people shared the gospel throughout the world there would surely be different types of people becoming followers of Jesus. And those different people would have different ideas about life and about life as a follower of Jesus.

One topic that exemplified that friction was the idea of eating foods that were off-limits to the people of God in the Old Testament. That is clearly what Paul was thinking of in verses 17 through 19.

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what you eat or what you drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”

How wonderful would it be to be able to describe your life as one of goodness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit? Paul puts that as the antithesis of this life of comparison, criticism and judgement. When we are busy looking at how other people behave and what they think is okay for us to do we are robbing ourselves of the goodness, peace and joy.

How incredible would it be to live with confidence bordering on certainty that God is pleased with us? Paul has literally promised us that very thing when we reject a critical spirit.

Now let me take Paul’s words and give them to us Christ followers today: “Let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”

We can only get stronger as we focus on what brings us together rather than what separates us. The church is the vehicle with which God is bringing the kingdom of God to earth. Let us not fall into the easy trap of severing the church with critical spirits. We are in this together!

Jeremy Alger is the pastor of the New Cumberland Church of the Nazarene. They meet in person and online every Sunday. For more information please visit