All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. Romans 14:20
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.
My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, was more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.
At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?
In Romans 14, Paul addressed issues like whether believers in Christ should eat certain foods or celebrate certain festivals. He was concerned that some people were imposing their views on others.
Paul reminded the church in Rome, and us, that believers in Jesus may view situations differently. We also have diverse backgrounds that color our attitudes and practices. He wrote, “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (v. 13).
God’s grace gives us great freedom even as it helps us express His love to fellow believers. We can use that freedom to put the spiritual needs of others above our own convictions about rules and practices that don’t contradict the essential truths found in the gospel (v. 20).
What are some of the rules and practices you keep as a believer in Christ? How might they affect other believers who think differently?
Jesus, give me the grace to give way on things that don’t contradict the gospel truth and the love to put the feelings of others above my own.
Key to understanding today’s passage (Romans 14:13–21) is Paul’s statement in verse 1: “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” What is meant by weak faith? In this context, Paul is talking about followers of Christ whose conscience required them to adhere to certain Jewish dietary laws. A “strong” Christian (15:1) understands that as believers in Christ saved by grace we’re not bound to the law. A person who insists on imposing their standards on others in these “disputable matters” is misguidedly judgmental. We’re never to insist that others give up their freedoms based on our personal convictions.