Sunday, 22 December 2013
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. Romans 14:13
Verse 13 begins with “therefore” to tie us back to the previous instruction. In the end, Paul says that we are accountable to Christ, not others, where “doubtful matters” are concerned. As this is so, “Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore.” One can almost hear the backbiting which precipitated Paul’s letter, backbiting which continues on to this day. People were certainly pointing fingers and accusing one another of not being true “Christians” because of their diet or their timing or mode of worship.
What is sad is that since the letter of Romans, along with all of the other epistles, has been written we now have these surer guidelines than before that time. And yet there continues to be the same argumentation almost 2000 years later. Churches divide over petty issues and strong heads argue over matters which should be laid to rest by merely opening the word, accepting what is written, and then exercising love along with adhering to the instruction.
But there are constants which never seem to go away – conscience, knowledge, and stubborn pride. Some are weak in the faith and lack knowledge and so they live moment by moment holding on to what their conscience dictates. Others are stronger in the faith and possess right knowledge and so they conduct their actions in accord with proper doctrine. In either case though, rather than pursuing harmony, stubborn pride often rules the heart.
Rather than this, the successful believer (whether possessing little or much knowledge) is he who lives in love concerning disputable matters. The weak without love may become an accusing fool; the strong without love may become haughty and self-righteous; but the Christian who exercises love in the treatment of others in these doubtful matters is the one who is on sound footing. This is the one who determines not to judge what they have no right to judge. In order to be one such as this, Paul says that we should “rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
A stumbling block is something that one can easily trip over. For example, if a person doesn’t want to eat meat for a particular reason (such as that given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 8) and another Christian coerces them to work against their conscience, they have now placed a stumbling block in front of their weaker brother. This is because anything which is not of faith is sin. A “cause to fall” would be a stumbling block which actually trips up the faith of a person so that they then sin, possibly violating their conscience to the point where they walk away from the faith… and that over food! Imagine how displeased the Lord will be when we face Him and receive our judgment concerning things we unrightfully judged.
Life application: Our freedoms in Christ do not include the freedom to coerce others to violate their conscience. Proper instruction is necessary. After that, let the believer decide how they will conduct their affairs on their own.
I am so grateful for You word, O God. It gives me guidance in how to conduct my life in a way which is pleasing to You, but it also gives me the freedom to choose many avenues which You have left open for me to decide upon. You don’t forcefully control my every action, but You still guide me enough to remain healthy, happy, and safe. I love the Bible… my instruction manual for right living. Thank You for the Bible. Amen.