Do not pass Judgement.
Let us continue our journey through the book of Romans. I want to thank you for the significant and positive response to our study. I pray that these emails are beneficial to your walk with the Lord and help you on your journey.
Read: Romans 14
What does it mean to have Christian liberty? How do we make our brother stumble? There are questions that we must think through when it comes to Christian living. Remember the context in which Paul is writing, as well as what he just finished writing in chapter 13. We are to be people that honor one another and love one another.
1. Do not forsake the weak (1). In this section, Paul begins a new discussion alone on the topic of love for others. Rather than dealing with love for those outside of the faith and in authority positions, he now turns towards love for our Christian brothers and sisters. You will see that Paul begins by admonishing those that would claim to be strong in the faith to welcome the ones that would be weak. Paul goes on to describe the weak as ones that would refrain from Christian liberty in aspects. This is not like the food sacrificed to idols that we see in the book of Corinthians. Instead, this seems to be along the line of issues that one deems moral, and another may not have a conviction about it. As you think about this idea, I know that undoubtedly some will think of the legalism that has haunted them from the past. Many churches adopted a legalistic mindset of looking down on behavior that they deemed unfavorable, for example, smoking, drinking, dancing, rock music, and going to the movies. Much harm has been done to the church in America with pastors that preached those type messages and did not take heed of Romans 14. I would dare say that the majority of our culture around us has moved away from that type of legalism. So how does this speak to us in our new context? I hope and pray, we can take some principles as we dive in.
2. What do you eat? (2-6) Paul begins to look at some of the aspects that seem to separate Christians from one another. He starts by looking at what someone may eat. We see that there are some that choose not to eat meat and others that do. We know that the Jews did not typically have a vegetarian diet, nor did the Gentiles. There was, however, some Greeks that did forbid the eating of meat for what they believed to have a spiritual cleansing power. There could have been converts of this belief system that continued to carry the conviction of not eating meat. There are many today that do not eat meat out of moral convictions. They do not eat meat due to cruelty to animals or different reasons. I do eat meat. Paul writes, do not pass judgment on the one who eats, nor the one who does not. You do not give an account to each other; rather, your account is to the Lord. Neither action is forbidden by God. Therefore, it is up to the individual to eat what their conscience allows them to eat. For us today, we can see how this can go into many different areas. Same with the observance of days. We know that some people are convicted not to participate in certain days while others see no offense. If the scripture does not forbid an action and yet someone is convicted not to participate, that is on their conscience. As believers, our role is not to argue with one another over these matters.
3. Live for the Lord (7-12). This should be a very encouraging text for you and me to read. Who are we to live for? Jesus! Who are we going to give our lives for? Jesus! Whether we live or die, we belong to Jesus. So it doesn’t matter if you eat or drink, observe days or don’t the questions we must ask, do you belong to the Lord? The Gospel is not about food. Although we baptist like to make it about food, I mean come on, IGA chicken is where it is! But Christ didn’t die for IGA chicken; He died that He would be the Lord of both the living and the dead. But do not forget, you do belong to a body of believers. This does not mean that you do whatever you want. We will get into that later. Rather, our Lord is Jesus; He is the one to whom we give account.
4. Loving your brother (13-16). Often when someone becomes a believer in Christ, they want to know fairly quickly, what are the things that I can and cannot do? They want a list of things that God approves of and things that He does not. While there are things that we know that God does not approve of, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, etc. He does not give us a list outside of this at all. We see that Christians are free to do all kinds of things and to allow other Christians to do the same. But the main point that I know that many of you are asking in your head is, do I have to forgo something that a weaker believer might object? On the one hand, there is nothing that you would do that you wouldn’t find someone that might object. William Barclays says, “Paul is not saying that we must always allow our conduct to be dominated and dictated by the views, and even the prejudices of others; there are matters which are essentially matters of principle, and in them, a man must take his own way. But there are a great many things which are neutral and indifferent, and it is Paul’s conviction that in such things we have no right to give offense to the more scrupulous brother… It is a Christian duty to think of everything, not as it affects ourselves only, but also as it affects others.” You may have the liberty and the right to do as you please, but I want to give you three thoughts of why you may forgo of something that someone might object to. That when you are with that individual, think of these things.
-Love is violated if our brother is made to grieve. If you do something that you know would hurt them and you do it anyway, you do not love them.
-If our liberty is right, then we should not see to it that others would slander it as we may abuse it. If we continue to do something that others might take offense, would they not think that we are harming our liberty?
5. The Kingdom of God (17-19). The Kingdom that we serve is not a kingdom that is about eating or drinking. The Kingdom that we serve is about the righteousness of God, holiness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Do not allow these things that are not of God’s Kingdom to keep you from serving the Lord. Instead, let your passion for Christ spur you to serve Him all the more.
6. Continue to build up. (20-23). Therefore, for the sake of food or other things, do not destroy the work of the Lord. We know that the Christian is free, but if what he chooses to take part in makes others stumble, he must submit himself to love them rather than take pride in his liberties. Paul says the things that may cause others to stumble, keep those between you and the Lord. Instead, let you love to be what is shown to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Friends, it’s a matter of love for your brothers.
I pray that you are encouraged by these emails. I again want to emphasize that I am so thankful for your prayers, your cards, and your emails. I love talking with you and look forward to sharing IGA chicken with you one day.