A student once asked me, “Professor, how do you minister to people in the gray areas of life?” After a lengthy conversation, we concluded that we can either focus on making a point or making a difference in that person’s life.
Paul speaks on the subject of how we relate to differences within the body of Christ, saying that “each one of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (v. 12). He then addresses how (“therefore”) we, as believers, should judge one another. Some Roman Christians were judging other Christians based on specific practices: what they ate or what days they kept as sacred. They did this with a condemning attitude. Paul encouraged them to stop making a point and to start making a difference in how they treated one another.
To live in unity with one another they should stop passing judgment about “disputable matters” (14:1). Instead, “make up your mind” not to put a stumbling block between one another (v. 13). Paul urged these believers (and us) to walk a delicate line. While we should not suppress others through legalism, we also must not entice ourselves or others to sin through an unhealthy use of freedom.
Paul encourages the Romans to respect one another’s liberties (v. 14). He is not saying that sinning is acceptable, but to be cautious in instances where moral choice is an individual matter (v. 15). Are we “acting in love” toward one another (v. 15)? We must not use the freedom we have in Christ to destroy one another. If we do that, it is evil (v. 16). Paul reminds us of the big picture in verses 17–18. God’s priorities are righteousness, peace, and joy, not what we eat or drink.
>> Sometimes we need to refrain from certain things in the presence of others. Even though you may not be sinning, you can restrain your actions based on the love for your brother or sister in Christ, choosing to put them above yourself.
Restrain us from judgment and indulgence at another’s expense. Remind us it is more important to honor You than to exercise our freedom. Humble us so we can consider others as better than ourselves.