Romans 14 is an interesting chapter, and one where we can learn lots of valuable lessons, although there is also a risk of misunderstanding this chapter. Let’s take a look at what it says, and what we can learn today.
This passage of scripture talks about not arguing with people about what they think is right and wrong. It speaks about what people believe about what they eat, and how people were judged by what they ate. Let me use an example from my own life. I have no problem with drinking alcohol, I don’t believe that it is right to get drunk, but I have no issue with people who have a drink. I occasionally have a drink, and I have friends who will do the same, however I also have friends who won’t touch alcohol. I respect this. There are Christians out there who used to have drinking problems, so they now stay away from alcohol. There are others who see the danger of drink, so they stay away from it. I have no problem having one drink, and I have never need drunk, so it is not a stumbling block for me. Having said this, if I go to the house of someone who doesn’t drink, I won’t try and convince them to drink. I won’t even serve alcohol if they come to my house. Why? I respect them and their beliefs, and I do not want to cause them to stumble, by trying to get them to do something that I am comfortable doing. This is what this passage is talking about.
I hope that explains what this means, but let me take a minute to tell you what this passage does not say. I have heard it preached that this passage shows that we should not tell others what is right and wrong as it is only wrong if it is ‘wrong for you’. This is nonsense. The Bible is clear about what is right and what is wrong, scripture also tells us that we should teach. We should show others what is right and wrong. The Bible is good for rebuking and teaching. This passage is talking abut something different, it is talking about condemning others over personal convictions. Verse 10 even tells us not to condemn. This is not talking about accountability. I just wanted to make that clear. If you are doing something against what scripture teaches, and someone tries to correct you, don’t use this chapter in your defence. There are parts of scripture (like drinking for example), where it leaves it up to the individual.
There are a few verses in this passage that give me some things to think about, let’s take a look at some of them. Verse 12 and 13. Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. Most people will use this chapter to justify what they do, and how others should treat them, however it actually shows us how we should live. How many of us live our lives in such a way to prevent others from stumbling? I often find myself using this scripture to justify what I do. “Don’t judge me, the Bible says not to look down on me.” Do I look down on others? Do I live my life so that others don’t fall? I’m not always sure, but this does give me some things to think about. What about you?
How about verse 23? But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. This is why we shouldn’t try and convince people to live like us, they need to follow what they believe to be right. Yes, we have scripture to learn from, and yes, we should be using it to teach people. We shouldn’t be forcing people to do what we believe to be right. We should be teaching them what scripture says, so they they can come to the conclusion on their own. Let’s look at the drinking situation again, for me to drink is not a sin because the Bible does not condemn it, and I am not convicted. If I persuade someone to drink, when they believe that it is wrong, then they are sinning. This means that an action could be a sin for someone else and not for me, depending on what we believe and how we have been convicted.
Let’s all have a think about this, and remember it next time we are faced with an issue like this. Just remember, this is not an invitation to do what we like, it is a reminder to keep others in mind when determining our actions.