In non-essentials, liberty

  

One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.  Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:2-4

Paul wrote to the Romans, one person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.  Here is the difference of opinions that Paul was talking about in the previous verse.  (As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.)

So, there were some in Christ’s church at Rome that were convinced in their conscience that eating meat sacrificed to idols was not offensive to the Lord.  Others, who were weaker in faith and less mature in their understanding of Christ’s gospel, were convinced that it was vile to eat meat sacrificed to idols.  

Jesus had not commanded explicitly either way.  He revealed to Peter that no food was unclean, but He didn’t command the church to eat all foods.  These weaker brothers were placing burdens on themselves that Christ did not place, but nonetheless, they were not in sin for refusing to eat that meat.  

Paul goes on to say, with the authority of the Savior, let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains.  The ones who were more mature in their understanding were not to be immature in their love.  They were not to feel contempt toward the ones who refused to eat.  Rather than contempt, they ought to have felt love and compassion. 

Remember that, for those of us who believe in Jesus, He has not despised us, but has lavished us with love and compassion.  Yet we, in our “maturity”, have a tendency to despise those who are not as mature as we. This is unbecoming the people of Jesus Christ.  When we consider how Christ loved us when we were in unbelief, and when we consider how He loves us even in our immaturity, it should motivate us to love all of our brothers, weaker though they may be. 

Paul goes on, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats.  

So, Paul, has up to this point, exhorted the stronger brother not to quarrel over opinions with the weaker brother.  But the weaker brother is not off the hook.  Just as Christ expects for the more mature to be patient and loving toward the less mature, so the less mature is not to place their legalistic judgments on his brother.  

If the weaker brother’s conscience would be violated by eating the meat, then by all means, he should have abstained.  But since Christ did not command it, he had no right to hold others to the same standard.  After all, as Paul writes, God has welcomed those who were eating the meat.  Would we place stricter standards than God?  

During the Savior’s ministry, He dealt abundantly with the Pharisees who were guilty of this very thing.  They took God’s commands and elevated them (in their mind) and placed additional burdens not just on themselves, but on others.  Would we do the same thing?

Well, sometimes we do.  Here’s an example.  One might feel convicted to read the Bible every day.  That is a good, worshipful thing to do, provided it is with the right heart.  But where it becomes pharisaical is when this brother passes judgment on the one who does not read every day.  For where did Christ command that we must read the Bible every day?  And would we condemn those Christians who were illiterate in centuries past or even are illiterate today?

Now, reading the Bible every day or having some sort of intake is good.  It is beneficial.  So, if you desire to read without missing a day, by all means, do so.  But do not cast judgment on the one who misses a day or prefers to listen to good sermons.  (That is, after all, what those who could not read did in the early church.)

So, as long as it is not commanded by Christ, do not add burdens on others.  

Paul goes on, Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his own master that he stands or falls.  

Christians are Jesus’s servants, not ours.  And they are not bound to our convictions, unless commanded by our Master.  It is the Master’s standards that matter, not ours.  And in any case, because of Christ’s enduring love, the servant will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  If we are concerned about the wellbeing of the one who eats the meat or the one who does not, or the one who reads every day or the one who does not, we do not need to be concerned.  For Christ will uphold him. 

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