The apostle Paul ends the book of Romans with a discussion about division in the church. Those Christians who were brought up with the Jewish traditions were concerned about those Christians who were not following the traditional Jewish religious rules and regulations. Paul spends a lot of time trying to set the record straight. The important point Paul wants everyone to understand is that our faith in Jesus Christ is the power of our salvation, not how we conduct ourselves in regards to religious rituals.
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Romans 14:1-2 (NIV)
Eating or drinking anything specific is not an issue in regards to our relationship with Jesus. For this reason, we should not ascribe any ill-will to anyone who lives their life in a different manner than our own.
“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” Romans 14:3 (NIV)
In the world we live in, there are many different Christian denominations – all with different rules regarding what to eat, drink, or how to dress, or when to attend worship service. Paul wants us to understand that there is nothing wrong with establishing certain boundaries as long as you do so with your heart and not out of obedience to some human ritual.
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” Romans 14:5 (NIV)
When your heart is pulling you in a certain direction, you should follow that nudging. At the same time, we should not impose our personal choices on others because we are each uniquely created by God.
“I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.” Romans 14:14 (NIV)
Above all things, our relationship with Jesus Christ is of paramount importance. When we listen carefully to the Holy Spirit directing our daily activities and seek to serve God by serving others, we can expect to always be moving in the right direction.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God.” Romans 14:17-18 (NIV)
Finally, Paul wants us to respect the decisions of others in regards to personal restrictions. If your neighbor has a problem with any aspect of their walk with Jesus, it is important to support them in their discipline – even when you take a different approach. In this way, we demonstrate our love for one another through mutual respect and concern.
“All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” Romans 14:20-21 (NIV)
Regardless of where we go to church or how we honor God in our daily life, if we have trusted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we are all children of God on a path to the kingdom of Heaven. We bring glory to God when we represent ourselves as one spirit, forming the body of Christ through our collective love for each other.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 (NIV)
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