Read Romans 14
The Weak and the Strong
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 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. 4 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.
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
After 13 chapters of strong exhortation for the Roman church, Paul takes time to shepherd believers in this chapter. When Jesus came, died, and rose from the dead, He fulfilled the requirements of the old law and founded a new covenant with believers. Now, believers are not restricted in ways they previously were. Arguments began within the early church because of this, and here Paul clears things up.
Every question of sin or righteous behavior is not based on feeling for believers. To practice these things apart from conviction would be submitting to a strange form of legalism, and would be confusing with what is required of believers. Where there is room for ambiguity, the believer is to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with God’s Word, and pray about how to make the next faithful step. We are no longer bound by certain rules (like restricting us from eating certain forms of meat), but we could still sin if God clearly convicts us of something and we don’t listen.
Our freedom as believers must not cause others to stumble. As an illustration, if you are friends with someone who is deathly allergic to dogs, you would not bring a dog around for his or her health and safety. In the same way, sin leads to death, and if something we do might cause someone to choose something that leads them away from Jesus, then the best way to love that person is to abstain from that thing. This may look practically like not choosing to drink alcohol when breaking bread with a believer with a history of alcoholism, or abstaining from sweets with someone in your small group while they fast from them. It is our joy as believers to deny ourselves when it may prevent another believer from stumbling.
Further, Paul encourages believers to not use newfound wisdom and maturity as a license to seat themselves on the judgement seat of Christ. We are not supposed to judge others or view ourselves as “better” believers. Further, spiritual maturity is not a requirement for fellowship. Ephesians 4 tells us that the body of Christ is designed to build itself up into the head that is Christ, and a body that is making disciples will always have new believers around.
- Have you recently done anything in your life that may have caused another believer to stumble? Have you sought their forgiveness?
- In what ways can you avoid being a stumbling block for those around you?
- Ask the Spirit if there is anything that you can abstain from that may not be universally required but may be life-giving. Consider fasting from something that is distracting you from Jesus.
Father, thank you that it is not my responsibility to sit on the judgement seat of Christ. Thank you that I am no longer bound by the law of sin and death to determine my righteousness through performance and behavior. I confess that I could not be faithful enough to you to do this if I tried. I thank you that I am instead viewed with the righteousness of Christ in your sight, and that I am now free in the law of the Spirit of Life. I thank you that Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, and show us a better way in Himself by taking on flesh. Help me to love my neighbor and avoid being a stumbling block to the believers around me, and bless me with eyes to see where others are struggling so that I might aid them in following the Way. Amen.
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