Pursue the things which make for peace
Romans 14 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
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 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 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 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 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 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 today’s text Paul says: I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Similarly in 1 Corinthians 10:23, He says: All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Taken out of context these verses sound like they give license to almost any behavior, that we can establish our own moral code based on our own convictions, what we think. Paul says nothing is unclean in itself, but if you think it is unclean, then it is unclean for you. When we read the context of both today’s text and 1 Corinthians 10, we understand that Paul is speaking merely about regulations concerning what is acceptable to eat, not about giving license to sinful behaviors.
These verses could be more broadly applied, it could be a trustworthy approach to nearly everything we do, if we were fully submitted to the Holy Spirit, if it were the Spirit which was guiding our thinking. In John 16:13 Jesus says, of the Spirit: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak.” The world says: follow your heart, pursue what makes you happy. We cannot though trust our own hearts to lead us in matters of morality. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says: “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” If we trust our own hearts and our own judgment, without submitting to the Holy Spirit, we open ourselves to deception, we open ourselves to the voice of the deceiver.
While what Paul writes does not give license to sin and immorality, it does speak of the freedom we have in Christ. We are no longer subject to the law and its strict regulations concerning what we should eat or drink. We are not subject to human religious traditions and regulations. There is freedom in and through Christ, for individuals and groups of individuals to exercise and express their faith regarding what they eat or drink; how they worship, there is freedom in Christ for individuals to determine how best to live out their faith as they are individually and corporately led by the Holy Spirit. We should not judge others based on these preferences and differences. Paul says: Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. As Jeremiah 17 says, God will search and judge the hearts, all will stand before the Lord and be accountable. Today’s text says: But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 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.
Jesus also speaks of stumbling blocks. In Matthew 18:3-9, He says: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.” In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. We then can become a stumbling block to others either by imposing our own beliefs on them or by teaching them to disregard God’s righteousness.
Paul says: So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Hebrews 12:12-15 says: Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (holiness) without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; Holy Spirit thank You for the freedom I have to live, free from sin and free from the regulations of man. Holy Spirit be my guide, that I may neither judge others, causing them to stumble by my own preferences, nor may I teach them to relax or disregard Your righteousness. I desire to be at peace with others and to pursue holiness, that both I and they may see You. Amen