Moving on through the whole Bible, we come to Romans 14. If we thought Romans 13 gave us trouble (check here), I wonder how many of us have actually even read Romans 14. This chapter addresses how we treat our fellow believers who understand Scripture differently than we do.
Now, it is easy to see this only in terms of the specific examples Paul gives in the chapter. Most of us are not excessively concerned with meat sacrificed to idols, and few of us actually debate whether or not church should be on Sunday or Tuesday. There are those who like to bicker about celebrating Easter or Christmas, and we would do well to consider these passages when we talk about those subjects.
I think, though, that we should examine these passages to grasp the principle here. The exact circumstances are fairly clear, and fairly infrequent for us today, so for what reason would the Holy Spirit inspire this passage into Scripture? There is a reason this is here for us today.
The principle here is not too hard to find, if you are willing to look. It is summarized in Romans 14:7-8, where Paul points out that “not one of us lives for himself.”
We make a fundamental mistake when we read Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” We read this and then jump to the conclusion that our freedom is all about us. We are free from sin, free from the Law, free from obligation! We are free from dead religion, free from pursuing righteousness to never find it, free from condemnation and hell! Hallelujah!
Yet then we assume that our freedom is for us to do whatever we darn well please. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our freedom in Christ is certainly about being free from condemnation. Certainly about being free from sin and death. It is not, however, about being free from obligation to our fellow believers.
This is Paul’s message here. You are free. You are strong in the faith. You fathom so many mysteries and subtleties and nuances and happenstances…
Yet you use your freedom and depth of understanding to run roughshod across the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is plainly unacceptable. So you are strong enough in faith to eat anything, drink anything, worship anytime?
Congratulations. How are you using that for the body? Because you do not live for yourself. You live for the Lord, and are the Lord’s, and ought to strengthen the Lord’s people in all things.
Instead, we continue to judge people by their weaknesses. We go ahead and label based on the temptations, struggles, or failures that we know of. Then we gloat that these are not our problems.
Yet our churches continue to struggle. Why?
Because in our pride of strength, we forget Romans 14:11: Every knee will bow.
There is not a one of us who will not kneel before God Almighty and confess Jesus as Lord and be made acutely aware of how much grace we needed. We will give an account for the stumbling blocks we have set before our weaker brothers. We will give an account for the ways we have been self-serving and chased after meat instead of fellowship.
I cannot think of one church conflict I have seen that was not over failing to live out Romans 14. I know of some from history that were truly over whether or not the Church would be Bible-centered Christian, but many current frets are over demanding that the Christian life be about us.
And it is not, nor has it ever been, about freeing you to do whatever you please. It has always been about freeing you to serve God.
Today’s Nerd Note: Camp out on the last phrase: Whatever is not from faith is sin. What do you do with that?
How can you neglect considering that in the Christian life?