Pursue Things Upbuilding to One Another
“So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.”—Rom. 14:19.
1, 2. (a) How did the earth come into existence, and why is it so well suited to human creatures? (b) Why is it not a paradise today?
THE Great Creator of the universe is without beginning and without end. Jehovah is his name. Jehovah existed for unnumbered millions of years before the creation of the universe or any creature in it. At that time Jehovah was complete; he did not have a feeling of loneliness even though he was alone. It pleased Jehovah to begin to create, or to build a universe and to make many creatures to live in it. Everything Jehovah did in connection with the creation of the universe has proved to be beneficial to others. The earth is an outstanding example of how creation has benefited others. The earth was made with a view to having creatures live upon it under righteous conditions and in happiness and freedom. Man became the highest form of living, visible creation, and all the things that were created were made to have great variety and to be pleasing and beneficial to man. The earth was made to be a comfortable, happy home for man, and it is evident that the great Creator gave consideration and thought to what would be of benefit to man and make his living on the earth pleasant.—Gen. 1:28; Ps. 115:15, 16.
2 Unquestionably, the motive behind all this thoughtfulness on the part of Jehovah was love. Jehovah is love, the great personification of it, and it was the exercise of his love that caused Jehovah to provide so many good things for the benefit and enjoyment of his creatures. The exercise of true love is always upbuilding and beneficial. At 1 Corinthians 8:1 the apostle Paul shows that love builds up. If mankind on the earth, represented by Adam and Eve at the beginning, had shown love for the Creator and built up a proper respect and worship for the Creator and in their love had shown obedience to the Creator, all mankind today would be enjoying to the full the many blessings and benefits of the building work that Jehovah did in making the earth and everything he has built upon it. But a tearing-down process began with the rebellion of Satan and the disobedience of the first man and woman. All the human race thus fell under condemnation because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Here Jehovah stepped in to express his love and proceed with a rebuilding campaign. Jehovah conceived a new system of things and purposed the building of a new world.—Gen. 3:15; Heb. 11:3, 39, 40; 2 Pet. 3:13.
3. (a) What provision did Jehovah make for building a harmonious world? (b) What kind of spiritual building work has followed the death of Christ?
3 A strong building has a solid foundation, and in his new building program Jehovah provided for a strong foundation stone, Christ Jesus. The unbounded love of Jehovah is shown in the offering of his most precious possession, his only-begotten Son, Christ Jesus, as a sacrifice for man’s sins. With the removal of disability through the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus mankind realized benefits by Jehovah’s building work, for upon the foundation of Christ Jesus Jehovah began to build up a spiritual house made of living stones and designed to carry on a particular work in Jehovah’s purpose. Thus since the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus a great building campaign has been going on. The apostle Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians 3:9, saying: “You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.” So Jehovah builds a spiritual organization on the foundation of Christ Jesus and uses dedicated Christian men on earth as his fellow workers.—John 3:16; 1 Pet. 2:4-10.
4. Who share in the spiritual building work, and what moves them to do it?
4 Paul and Apollos shared in building. Others likewise participated in this, as explained by Paul in First Corinthians, chapter three. All those sharing in this building work are working together with God toward the accomplishment of God’s purpose, and it must be expected that all of them would have the same motivating force, namely, love. Anyone who is a fellow worker with God must be like him in his motives, even though in a much more limited capacity. He must be thoroughly impressed by his relationship to Jehovah. Jehovah the Almighty Creator is so great as compared with the small fellow worker who is privileged to share in working for Jehovah’s purposes.—2 Cor. 6:1; Eph. 5:1.
5. What example has Jehovah shown us in dealing with weaker ones, and so what should we be doing?
5 Each one of these fellow workers is privileged to serve only because the great Jehovah provided the means of overcoming weakness through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Jehovah, the Strong One, takes the weaknesses of the human creature into consideration. That is the example he puts before us, and our point of view should therefore be the same toward others who may not be as strong spiritually as we have come to be. Spiritual strength comes through taking in knowledge of God’s Word and applying oneself in the use of God’s principles, and teaching, and with the help of Jehovah and his spirit. Time is also required for this study and training. Some who have spent years in the study of God’s Word become stronger than others. Those who apply themselves well become stronger than others. The apostle Paul was one of those who applied himself diligently to becoming spiritually strong, and he counsels at Romans 15:1-3: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding. For even Christ did not please himself.” Christ Jesus considered the weaknesses and spiritual needs of others and provided help to those around him.
6. How is love’s influence upon the Christian builder demonstrated in his handling of the good news?
6 The interests of our neighbors, or those who are near to us, must be considered and not just the pleasing of ourselves. This is how one expresses true love. The genuine Christian will be looking out for what is good for the upbuilding of his neighbor. It is an opportunity for unselfish thought and action. Thus one’s own desires and self do not become exalted or magnified as of great importance, but the carrying out of God’s will becomes of greatest importance. This means being considerate of others for the sake of God’s work. A builder is a worker and has a project to complete. He must work in a way that will accomplish the task that is set before him. So he bends his will to the doing of the great work connected with the spreading of the good news. Paul is a shining example. “For, though I am free from all persons, I have made myself the slave to all, that I may gain the most persons. And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, that I might gain those under law. To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all kinds, that I might by all means save some. But I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23) Yes, it is necessary to help others and avoid intentionally irritating those near to us or being careless about things that will tear them down in their appreciation of spiritual things rather than build them up.
TOLERANCE TOWARD CUSTOMS
7, 8. (a) Why should no one be criticized because of his dietary customs? (b) How is it possible that a Christian could put an obstacle in the way of another by what he may eat or drink?
7 People have many customs. They have their ways of eating, drinking, dressing, speaking and conducting their business. The world is divided today by nationalism and a variety of thought on the standards of life. Yet out of all these people of the nations Jehovah God has said he gathers people to be praisers of him. Because one comes to a certain knowledge of Jehovah God and his purposes and desires to serve God, it does not mean that he completely changes all his customs. Because he comes to a knowledge of the truth, it does not mean he will alter his eating habits. For example, a man may live on a diet of vegetables. Whether he eats meat or vegetables has nothing to do with serving Jehovah. Man may eat and drink as he feels best for his own physical well-being. For anyone to make an issue over eating or drinking would be diverting attention from the important activity in life of serving the Creator and might lead to disputes and difficulties. It would be improper for a Christian builder to work thus against others who are in the great building program now being conducted by Jehovah. Each builder is a fellow worker with God, a servant of God, and stands before God. God is the Judge. “Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for Jehovah can make him stand.”—Rom. 14:4.
8 Here in the fourteenth chapter of Romans the apostle Paul is talking about being considerate of others and being tolerant of their way of life. He uses the illustration on food as a means of showing how to avoid disunity and a breaking down just because of a disagreement on whether something should be eaten or not be eaten. The primary point, the kingdom of God, is that which deserves serious consideration by all who are builders together with God. While one might notice that another individual does not eat certain foods, why should he make an issue out of that? Beyond that an individual might have a tendency to become offended against a person who eats or drinks certain foods. In fact, it might be possible to put a stumbling block in the way of a person who is not strong in the faith if one would eat a certain type of food in a particular part of the earth. There are some people who have been trained by their parents to believe that it is wrong to eat beef. Others refrain from eating pork. In one section of the world it is very common for people to drink wine or alcoholic beverages, but in another part of the earth a person would be regarded with dislike, or might even be considered as a wrongdoer if he were to drink some alcoholic beverage.
9. Keeping his objective in mind, what course should the mature Christian minister take with respect to eating or drinking?
9 The mature Christian, building together with God, must have in mind at all times his objective. What is his reason for being in any community or in association with any people? As a dedicated servant of Jehovah God it must be to accomplish the work of God ordained for this time, which is the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom. If he is commissioned to preach the goods news of the Kingdom he must be able to speak to people and to teach them and build them up. Why, then, should he enter into a dispute with persons and put an insurmountable obstacle in his way by drinking or eating a certain thing offensive to the community? Take for an example a community where a person taking an alcoholic drink would be looked upon as a sinner. If a Christian minister comes to that community from a land where drinking wine is very common, should he insist that he drink wine even though it offends the people of the community and prejudices them against him and the message he brings? Obviously the answer is that it would be better for the visiting minister to take some tea or other beverages that are available in the community, for the reason that he wants to advance the Christian building program. He will not be injured or killed if he does not have wine, because there are many other things that a person can drink.
10. How must a mature Christian subjugate his personal tastes for the sake of the congregation, as indicated at Romans 14:13-21?
10 The same is true with a person coming into a community and associating with the congregation of his brothers. If it is not the custom in that land, or that part of the world, to drink wine, the visitor should not go out in public and drink wine and bring difficulties on the whole congregation. Paul says, in Romans 14:13-21: “Rather make this your decision, not to put before a brother a stumbling block or a cause for falling. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is defiled in itself; only where a man considers something to be defiled, to him it is defiled. For if because of your food your brother is being grieved, you are no longer walking in accord with love. Do not by your food ruin that one for whom Christ died. Do not, therefore, let the good you do be spoken of with injury to you. For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit. For he who is in this regard a slave to Christ is acceptable to God and has approval with men. So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another. Stop tearing down the work of God just for the sake of food. True, all things are clean, but it is injurious to the man who with an occasion for stumbling eats. It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.”
11. Why can we say this course is Christian?
11 Here again we see the example of one who does not put self ahead of his work in God’s service. It was soon after this that Paul stated: “For even Christ did not please himself.” And he showed that we must have the same mental attitude Christ had.
12. According to First Corinthians, chapter ten, what attitude does the mature Christian builder take?
12 A person might want to argue that he will eat or drink whatever he wishes when it is not unlawful in the sight of God to drink wine or eat certain foods. But even though a thing may be lawful in the sight of God, will it be upbuilding? Paul brings this into consideration in First Corinthians, chapter ten, which has a similar reference to food and drink, and says: “All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person. Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.”—1 Cor. 10:23, 24, 31-33.
13. Who are imitated by taking this unselfish course?
13 This form of consideration for others for the sake of the good news is the correct position of all Christians. It shows the right mental attitude even as Christ displayed it. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” We must always be seeking the advantage of others for the sake of the good news.