Tuesday, 10 December 2013
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.Romans 14:1
In chapter 14, Paul now turns to the concepts of liberty and license. In particular, he will use food and drink along with days of rest/worship to show how we can easily err in our liberty, not in exercising it, but by lording it over others with less knowledge than we may have. What is for us freedom from sin for the individual can easily turn into the cause of sinfor ourselves or others. We do not have license to sin or to cause others to do so. And so he begins with, “Receive one who is weak in faith.”
A person who is weak in the faith is not someone who lacks faith in Christ. Either a person has faith and is saved or they lack faith and they are not saved. To be “weak in the faith” is to be saved and yet unsure of what is allowed and what is not allowed within the context of the faith. Jews coming to faith do so from the lens of the law where many foods are prohibited. They also come from those rules concerning Sabbath observance (the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. It is not a term which is appropriate for Christianity except as is concerned with training on what the law taught; it is not a concept which is to be applied to a particular observance within the faith.)
Others may come into the faith with preconceptions about music, types of clothing, the drinking of alcohol, holiday celebrations, and on and on. Many come into the faith with all types of baggage that they carried from their previous lives. Without proper knowledge concerning these issues, they are therefore “weak in the faith.”
Paul says we are to “receive” such individuals as fellow believers and to do so without “disputes over doubtful things.” The term here fore “doubtful things” is literally “judgments of thoughts.” We are asked to not argue over such judgments. Having said that, this was written at a time when the principles of the faith were not yet written and categorized into what we now call the New Testament. Therefore, there is a more definite understanding now of those things.
Knowing this, we should receive fellow Christians without disputes, but we also need to be ready to defend our freedoms in Christ and also be ready to instruct the weak in the faith as to what is right and proper. Eventually, a person “weak” in the faith may become someone who is belligerent or obstinate in the faith.
When shown that certain types of foods can in fact be eaten, they may balk and actually accuse the brother who is stronger in the faith. Thus the weaker actually presumes to be the stronger through their lack of proper understanding of what is acceptable. This becomes perverse dissension and it is very common. When someone willfully rejects what is clearly presented and shows a defiant attitude, they should no longer be received.
The key to all of this is Christian love. When it is demonstrated, by the knowing or by the one lacking knowledge, a harmonious relationship will more likely continue –
You have ham and that’ll be ok with me
But I will abstain; it’s really not my thing
I know that either way, we have been set free
And so between us, let peace and harmony ring
If such an attitude is demonstrated, then the weak and the strong will exercise their liberties without animosity or dissension. Paul will continue to explain these things as chapter 14 progresses.
Life application: Don’t set out to ruin another’s faith over what is acceptable. Receive one another without lording your knowledge over those you disagree with. Rather, stand ready to demonstrate what is right directly from Scripture without fighting or accusation.
Heavenly Father, I love the freedoms which have come to me through the work of Christ. In Him, I can worship on any day of the week; I can dance as a form of praise; the type of instruments we use at church reflects the style of music we enjoy; the foods we eat are eaten with gratitude, not finger-pointing. In Him, we have so many freedoms. Thank You for worship which is in Spirit and in truth! Amen.