Romans 14:13–23comment (0)
November 17, 2011
By Robert Olsen
Related Scripture: Romans 14:13–23
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Do You Strive for Peace With Others?
Ceasing Criticism (13–15)
One main mark of a Christian is love. Christians are to love their neighbor, whomever it may be, but Christians are to show love especially to one another. Unfortunately Christians have a tendency to quarrel with one another and create factions because we still possess our sin nature. We can think back to Paul in Romans 7 and remember how he still struggled with sin. Showing love to one another means we have to live at peace with one another. Since there are aspects in life that the Bible does not address (styles of worship, for example), we are bound to have differing opinions. So what are Christians to do when there are differences of opinion? When Christians disagree over a nonessential area of doctrine, the stronger brother in Christ needs to forsake his freedom for his brother’s sake. If a Christian prefers to have a rock band style of worship and is in the midst of other Christians who prefer a piano with hymns, then for their sake, he or she needs to give up the right to contemporary worship and, out of love for his or her fellow Christians, worship with hymns. This preserves unity in the church and avoids putting a stumbling block in the path of weaker brothers.
Pursuing Priorities (16–18)
Another example in which Christians differ in opinion is alcohol. Many Christians in America believe that drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible sets the parameters for alcohol: Christians must follow the laws of the land, so there can be no underage drinking, and Christians are not to get drunk (see Ephesians 5:18). However, there is one more situation in which Christians may not drink, and that is when it becomes a stumbling block to other Christians. Since many Christians are offended by alcohol, what profit is there in drinking it if it is going to create strife? Paul said, “The kingdom of God is not about eating or drinking but about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Since this is what Christians are to strive for, their opinions need to be set aside for the sake of unity.
Helping Others (19–21)
Followers of Christ need to be willing to deny themselves. Christ demands that they do this when they follow Him; they also do this when they deal with one another. If a Christian chooses to drink alcohol in the presence of others who believe it to be wrong, then how is this advancing God’s Kingdom? Instead of creating unity, this is creating anger, pain and factions. This is not uplifting but rather putting a stumbling block in front of their fellow Christians. We must pursue peace and do what we can to assure that there is peace. Many churches are torn apart over petty issues such as the color of carpet in the sanctuary, whether to buy new hymnals and the like. Christians are to be known by their love for one another; therefore each follower of Christ needs to put others and their interests ahead of his or her own.
Keeping Quiet (22–23)
On questionable matters, Christians need to keep their beliefs to themselves if it means keeping the peace. This is not to be confused with crucial matters. For example, if there are members in the church who believe that all religions lead to God or Jesus is not God, then these issues need to be addressed. These are core Christian beliefs that, if allowed to persist, can actually keep people from being saved. Paul was not addressing such concerns in this passage. Issues of eating and drinking do not inhibit salvation; however, Paul did insist that they can create stumbling blocks that can, in fact, hinder one’s faith. Indeed Paul said if you choose to go against your conscience in these questionable matters, then you are sinning, and if you encourage others to go against their conscience, then you are causing them to sin. So if you believe that alcohol is fine to drink and you convince others who do not share this view to do the same, then you are sinning and you are forcing them to sin. Therefore it is better to keep your opinion on the matter to yourself and avoid participating in such behavior.