Do you know someone who insists on eating kosher or perhaps eats anything they want from blood sausage to decadent chocolate fudge cake? Do you know someone who is adamant that she must not celebrate Christmas or maybe you know someone who considers Christmas a holy day? Do you know someone who enjoys books or movies about wizards or possibly someone who considers those movies to be evil? Are you judging the person whose faith is not on the same level as your own? You are not alone, it’s only natural. But that doesn’t make it right or helpful, we are not natural, we are supernatural, we are not of the flesh, we are of the spirit. Let’s read Romans 14 and see what Paul had to say on the matter. Verses 1-4 reads,
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 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. 4 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.
So, he hasn’t reached your level of faith yet, he is a child of God, beloved, cherished, and filled with the same Spirit as you, obeying the same Lord as you, and walking in the same faith as you. Maybe your faith in this area is greater than his, maybe his faith is greater than yours. It is to God that he must answer, not you. Perhaps abstaining from certain films is how he honors God. Maybe observing some holy days gives him a unique way of worshipping the Lord. It is possible that abstaining from certain foods is his way of exercising self-control and so glorifying the Lord. Who are you or me to block him from his obedience? We are not walking with Christ alone, we are part of the church, we walk together with our brothers and sisters. Verses 5-9 read,
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's.9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
As followers of Christ, we belong to one another and are members of one another (Romans 12:5). But more than that, what supersedes the unity of believers is our unity with Christ. We are not living for our own glory, but His. We are not living for our own purposes, but His. Whatever we do as followers of Christ should be for Him, not so we look good or are lifted up and blessed, but so God’s goodness is revealed and He is lifted up and blessed.
Your brothers and sisters in Christ, those God has welcomed into His church have, like you, been redeemed. Do you know what redemption actually means? It means to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment. It is a purchase. Our biblical redemption means we were bought with the price of Jesus’ blood, His life. 1 Corinthians 7:23 says,
You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says,
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
We no longer live for ourselves, we live for Christ and that means living in tangible love and active humility to one another as well. We care about each other and protect one another. We have to discern the active threats against the Body rather than nitpick the things that do not matter. Does it matter that your sister in Christ is getting a tattoo or is it more important that a member of the church is pursuing visions of angels? The more mature Christians know that the tattoo will not pull the girl from her pursuit of the kingdom of God but seeking visions of angels will allow the enemy, idolatry, and danger into the church. (Colossians 2:18-19).
Acts 20:27-30 in The Living Bible reads,
for I didn’t shrink from declaring all God’s message to you.
28 “And now beware! Be sure that you feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his blood—for the Holy Spirit is holding you responsible as overseers. 29 I know full well that after I leave you, false teachers, like vicious wolves, will appear among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Some of you yourselves will distort the truth in order to draw a following.
We belong to Christ and to one another, these petty arguments do not promote maturation in anyone, they keep us from living for Christ.
Do you know that the measuring stick you hold up for everyone else, is the measuring stick you will be held up to? For instance, the woman who claims certain laws must be kept in order to be saved, will be judged by whether she kept the whole law. If you say your brother is wrong for begin vegan or you judge that your sister is wrong for eating meat than you will be judged by the law. The law cannot justify you! (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16).
Jesus said it like this in Matthew 7:1-5,
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
Stop worrying about the speck in your brother’s eye and be concerned about the log in your own eye. Maybe you are so concerned with what Joe or Jane are doing because you don’t want to examine yourself. Verses 10-12 read,
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Listen, just because you know something is okay for you and will not deter your from your relationship with God doesn’t mean it won’t hurt someone else. Maybe, I can see certain films and they will not affect my faith, but if my seeing that film will shake my brother’s faith, make him question his faith or cause him to see a film that will hurt his faith then in love, I can refrain. Paul talked about this to the Church at Corinth using the example of meat which had been sacrificed to idols. The mature know that there are no other God, but the One True God and no Lord but the Lord Jesus Christ, so the meat is merely meat, but not everyone has gained that understanding. The knowledge of the mature can in pride and judgement hurt the God’s beloved child who hasn’t understood that yet, 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 reads,
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
I like the way The Message puts verses 11-13 of that passage,
Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.
In unity and love, I care about my fellow believers as much as I care about my own. Loving my neighbor means I will not cause him harm. Verses 13-19 read,
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Is all the hairsplitting and faultfinding encouraging your brothers and sisters? Is it edifying the church and glorifying God? Why is it so important for us to lift ourselves up? Why do we lift ourselves up when we should be waving the banner of Christ? Jesus died for that girl who believes she must be vegan to honor God. The Father chose that man who believes that taking even a sip of alcohol is a dire sin. The Holy Spirit indwells that woman who thinks that listening to any music not labeled Christian will hurt her. He also died, chose, and indwells the ones who eat meat, drink, and listen to hard rock. If He is God, who are we to say He is wrong to cherish them?
God works through the church. He has given us gifts for building the church, the common good, and His glory. Our quibbling, our hypercritical spirits, and our self-righteousness works against Him. Trust God to work in others as He works in you. Trust God to work in you as He works in others. Let God judge you, work in you, and give you His righteousness instead of thinking of yourself too highly. If you assign yourself righteousness, Jesus won’t need to save you, will He? Verses 20-23 read,
Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
I was putting myself in God’s place when I judged others regarding their maturity or depth of relationship with God. I was wrong to accuse people (even in my head) of pursuing the image of Christianity over the image of Christ. I must stop, remove the obstacles I have put in place, and workout my own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).