Read Romans 14:1-23
1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The 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. 4Who 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.
5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He 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. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If 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.
9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, 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. 11It is written:
"'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.'"
12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
13Therefore 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. 14As 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. 15If 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. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do 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. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But 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. (NIV)
This is a theme that Paul writes about several different times in his letter. It is a problem still today. People still judge other Christians by the way they observe their faith. The key point Paul makes is to not pass judgement on disputable matters. This is something John Wesley talked about often. He said that there are matters which we must agree on such as Christ died for our sins. But there are also matters which are subject to interpretation and on those matters, we must have charity among one another.
This is the problem with our different denominations. We put requirements on as to what it means to be a Christian. To those who do this, Paul calls them weak believers. They are weak because they put on various requirement to faith and for Paul, this leans towards a work to earn our salvation. For Paul, in Christ, everything was permissible. But he was also quick to say that not everything is beneficial.
The thrust of Paul’s argument is that different people are going to live out their faith differently, but all are living it out in honor and for the Lord. Paul is saying that we should honor that in each other. That is always the key point for Paul, looking to lift up others and not ourselves. Paul says we should deny ourselves what we believe is right if it causes another believer to stumble. It is always better to deny than to cause someone to stray from Christ or to have someone come to Christ.
Paul also says that peace in the community is utmost importance. This should still be true today. We need to have peace among the different ways people believe. But we don’t. Different denominations are always putting forth some requirement to be a member. Some even go so far as to say that certain denominations are not Christian because they don’t do it our way. This is wrong. God looks to the heart, not our traditions. Salvation is based on faith alone. And we know that God calls us to live out our faith in a faith community.
When we join a faith community, we live with them and we should not be telling other faith communities how to live. This truly causes those who do not know Christ to be confused. And our different denominations offer people different ways to praise God. It you like to raise your hands and shout, there is a place for you. If you like solitude and quiet, there is a place for you. If you like lots of rituals, there is a place for you. If you like lots of singing and preaching, there is a place for you. There is a place for everyone to worship God. And we need to honor that and not put it down.
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