The Weak and the Strong
14 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14 and other passages address how we are to handle disputable matters. From this we can immediately infer two things:
- God knew we’d have disputed matters.
- He gave guidance on how to handle them.
Some beliefs are essential if one is to call himself a Christian – e.g., Jesus is the only way to salvation (mentioned directly or indirectly in 100 passages), Jesus is God, etc.
Other things have guidance but not absolutes. I think a contemporary example would be alcohol. The Bible doesn’t expressly forbid alcohol, but it does say not to get drunk, don’t tempt others with it, obey laws and not to be a slave to it. But we shouldn’t make our own denominational rule that says, “Don’t drink alcohol – ever!” and exclude people based on that. There are enough stumbling blocks to reach people with the Gospel. Let’s not add any more. Having said that, I have no use for alcohol and have about one drink per year.
Contrary to many myths, we have a lot of freedom in Christ. Christianity contains many principles and some specific rules, but we can exercise our personal preferences in many ways, such as worship styles.
5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
Paul hadn’t gone soft on sin. We have preferences or things we aren’t sure about, but we shouldn’t put our demands on top of what scripture requires.
Note that we shouldn’t violate our consciences. This is a reason that denominations are good. We must agree on the essentials or we are brothers and sisters in Christ. But it is better to be in different denominations if differences on non-essential issues would violate our consciences. For example, if I couldn’t in good conscience baptize an infant then I should go to a denomination that doesn’t require that practice, even though I wouldn’t say those that do require it aren’t Christians.
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 why do you look down on your brother? 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 confess to God.’”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
That is a sobering thought! We’ll give an account everything we did, said and thought that we shouldn’t have and everything we didn’t do, say and think but should have. Thanks be to Jesus for taking the punishment for our sins already!
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to 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 approved by men.
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 man 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 to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Paul was not a moral relativist (the line of thinking that “there is no truth.”) Paul was quick to say what was right and wrong. But he pointed out that on issues of preference we shouldn’t judge others.
His closing was a bit of a surprise, though: If we aren’t sure if we should do something – even if it isn’t truly a sin – then it is a sin to do it! We are to act in confidence and faith.
What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?