Happy Saturday friends, I pray you are having a great weekend. Today, we are wrapping up our look at Romans Ch. 14. If you have not been reading since the beginning of this particular "series," I would encourage you to go back and read the last few entries-else, today might not make sense.
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced [f]in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be [g]spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then [h]we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats [i]and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have [j]as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
In the last few verses of Romans 14, Paul sort of switches gears a bit. This is the part of Romans 14 that is the most ignored and/or overlooked. People read vs. 13-then turn off their brains and go on autopilot. It's important to remember what Paul is talking about in this chapter-new believers who still struggle with following O.T. law. I do understand how many people take the first part of Romans 14, and apply it to modern day issues of conscience. I also think that in certain instances-the beginning part of Romans 14 can apply. More often than not, this chapter is used 2 ways:
1. The younger generations to claim that we (fellow believers) are not to judge...period. The young people say things like: "only God can judge."
2. "Mature" Christians defending their freedom in Christ- with alcohol, gambling, or other things that are traditionally looked down upon in Christian circles.
Neither one of these fit the context of Romans 14. While drinking alcohol is a matter of personal conscience, it's not a matter of being overly legalistic at all-it's the opposite, I would argue. Modern Christian society is not like the early church, where new believers come in, having already been steeped in a religious tradition-like Judaism. Most new believers struggle with carnality, not with being overly legalistic-this is why we must use caution when trying to apply Romans 14 to our modern society.
Lastly, and I will wrap up our look at Romans 14 with this: those who use this chapter to defend their "freedom" in Christ simply ignore Paul's instructions at the end: 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. Here, Paul is saying that if you are doing something that has the potential to make someone stumble-then don't do it. When our "freedom" in Christ causes someone else to stumble, that "freedom" becomes a sin. Laura and I once left a church because the pastor was open about the fact that he drank alcohol. They even had alcohol at their yearly fundraiser (for the missions project the church sponsored). When Laura and I learned this, we spoke with the pastor, letting him know that we could not attend because I should not be around a bunch of people drinking. This didn't phase him at all-his "freedom" in Christ was more important. I've never met a Christian (that was ok with drinking alcohol) that said: "your right, my drinking could cause someone to stumble...I won't do it."
We must be careful when using scripture (like Romans 14), always understanding context, culture, and the intent of the author.
This was a longer entry, but I wanted to finish up. Also, if you are a Christian that enjoys some occasional alcohol-I am not judging you. I'm just relaying some of my experiences. We are all accountable to the Lord for our thoughts, decisions, and actions. We must all make sure our freedom does not make someone else stumble. God Bless.