Romans 14:1-4

In Romans 14:1-4 Paul begins by exhorting us to take care of those weaker in the faith. We’re to receive and accept them without arguing or debating what they may believe. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” These are words to take seriously. Paul warns us to not make spiritual maturity a requirement for fellowship. We should distinguish between someone who is weak and someone who is rebellious. The weak need our care and nurturing. The rebellious may need correction. There are many reasons why a Christian might be weak:

  • They may be a babe in Christ (babies are weak)
  • They may be sick or diseased (by legalism)
  • They may be malnourished (by lack of good teaching)
  • They may lack exercise (needing exhortation)

Paul uses a person who refuses to eat meat as an example here. “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.” As an example of an opinion that someone weak in the faith may cling to, Paul looks at those who refuse to eat meat for a spiritual reason. Perhaps they refused it because they feared it was meat sacrificed to a pagan god. Perhaps they refused the meat because it wasn’t kosher, and they stuck to Jewish dietary regulations and traditions. This was a hot issue in Paul’s day. There are plenty of issues where some believers believe one way and others believe differently.

When confronted by things where there is no clarity on scripture about how one should act, we need to exercise grace while holding each other accountable to the command to love one another. “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.” The veggie eaters were weaker because of their legalistic attitudes and lack of love towards others in Paul’s eyes. Undoubtedly these weak ones did not see themselves as weaker. It’s likely they thought they were the strong ones, and the meat-eaters were the weak ones. Legalism has a way of making us think that we are strong and those who don’t keep the rules the way we do are weak.

Paul reminds us that judging our brother is inappropriate because we are not their masters. It isn’t our place to pass judgment on any fellow Christian. They stand or fall before their own Master, God Himself – and God is able to judge each of us on His terms. “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.” There is a lot of useless, harmful division among Christians over silly, stupid things. Paul isn’t telling these Christians to erase their differences; he tells them to rise above them as Christian brothers and sisters. God alone is judge. We need to focus on loving one another!

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