“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” – Romans 14:19
In this chapter, Paul was talking about the law of liberty and the law of love and that we have freedom in Christ. As the Bible says, “all things are lawful for me but not all things are profitable.” (1 Cor. 6:12) Although we have liberty in Christ, that does not mean we continue to live however we feel and do whatever we want. Paul made that argument in Romans chapter twelve already. Also, see the list that Paul lays out for us in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 on those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. It is very contrary to how many of us believe we can live life and still be a Christ follower.
Here, Paul is dealing with “gray areas”. In the days of Paul, eating meat was a source of contention between the legalistic believers and those who had more liberty in Christ. Meat was a problem because some of the Christian’s did not want to eat it in case it had been offered to idols. This was because they still held to some traditions of the Jewish religion. Others did not have an issue with it. So, they would argue about this and judged each other as a result.
It is like us today. I walked into a meeting and a couple of us had seen each other at the movies to see a Christian movie. One guy heard us talking and he said sarcastically, “oh, going to R rated movies huh?” I replied and asked if he had ever seen The Passion of The Christ and he said, “of course!” “Well,” I replied, “That is an R rated movie.” We chuckled about it and left it at that.
What was the result of this man’s comment to me? Well, it was made in-front of my pastor and many pastor’s that I love and respect. I do not know if they heard we went to see a Christian movie or if they just heard his comment about “R” rated movies. If I am being honest, I felt down on myself and guilty as if I had done something wrong. Others heard the comment as well so naturally I began to wonder what others began to think (just me being human and insecure). I knew this was a joke, of course. Sometimes, however, it does not come off like a joke but rather a judgment and we must be careful with that.
Paul says, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls” – Romans 14:4. It is not our job to go around pointing out the sins of others like we are the sin police. Yes, there are things that are blatantly wrong but there are gray areas too and Paul goes on at the end of this chapter and says that if we can do whatever it is we do with a clear conscience before God then that is between you and God.
But…do not deceive yourself either! You know what is right and what is wrong. The point here is to love and build others up rather than tear them down. Do not try to make yourself look good at the expense of someone else that you do not think is living up to your standards. It is better to be concerned about how they treat our Lord. Everyone falls short, but everyone can be justified by His grace.
“The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it; but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of a mine, and you on the crest of an Alp; but you are as little able to touch the stars as they.” – Bishop Handley Moule