Reading: Romans 14
For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:15-23 ESV)
Reflecting and Thinking
Romans 14 has often challenged the church. What is strong faith and what is weak faith? Who is the weaker brother and who is the stronger brother? Are these "disputable" matters major doctrinal questions or mere incidentals? And how does one answer that question when one side says "doctrine" and the other says "optional"? Understanding the text is helped by tracing two words which are not translated consistently in every version. These are "condemn" or judge-the attitude of the weaker toward the stronger, and "look down on" or despise-the attitude of the stronger toward the weaker. In Rome, it appears that both sides are behaving badly. The question is one of faith. How does one live by faith? What do we do when your faith and my faith are different? How do we live out God's righteousness by faith when we do not understand everything the same? These instructions from Paul suggest that it is not easy, but it is necessary if we are to be the people God has called us to be.
What kinds of things have you heard included in discussions of Romans 14? Which do you think belong, which do not belong? Why? Based on verse 22, "keep these things between you and God," what challenges does the church face in matters that are by their very nature publicly visible concerns?
Dear God, help us to love one another as much as you love us. Help us to love one another enough to get self out of the way, especially in matters such as those of this chapter. Give us insight, wisdom and understanding that we might know how to apply these words and how to build one another up in faith without judging or arrogance, with placing undue limitations or stumbling blocks. Always we pray in Jesus' name, seeking his authority and will, Amen.