Scripture reading – Romans 14-16
Today’s reading assignment concludes our reading in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Unlike any other book in our chronological schedule, Romans has presented us with a succession of great doctrines that are fundamental to our faith in Christ. I am limiting today’s devotional to Romans 14, and what is a practical challenge to all believers: Accepting one another’s differences, without being harsh in our judgment.
“Christian Liberty” has become a hot topic over the past two decades, and I fear its excesses have blighted the testimony of the church in the world. Unfortunately, the insistence by some believers who, either out of ignorance or sinful pride, demand their liberty in what others define as “questionable things,” has resulted in little discernable difference between the world and its lusts, and believers and their fellowships. Every generation of believers face the question of “Christian Liberty;” however, I fear this generation has lost its perspective of the ultimate standard: What pleases the Lord, and brings Him glory.
The Strong, the Weak, and the Judge (Romans 14:1-12)
Paul identified a debate that was raging between believers he identified as “weak in the faith” (14:1), and limited their diet to “herbs” (vegetables), and others who believed that they might “eat all things (14:2). The debate had become so contentious that believers were admonished for despising (having disdain for), and judging (condemning) one another (14:3). Rather than parsing out the historical debate (eating meat vs. eating herbs; legalistic rules devised by men regarding acceptable and unacceptable activities on holy days, 14:5-6), I will suggest principles to guide our decisions on Christian liberty in our day.
Another principle, realizing God is the final judge, we should have our consciences exercised by His Word, being mindful that He will call each of us to account for himself in the day of judgment (14:11-12).
Consider Paul’s admonition regarding our individual Christian liberty choices:
Romans 14:13 – “13 Let us not therefore judge [decide; determine; pass judgment] one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock [trigger of a trap; set a trap; give cause for falling] or an occasion to fall [stumble] in his brother’s way.”
I fear some believers are watching and waiting for other believers to stumble, and fall into sin. Rather than judging themselves, they pounce upon other believers with criticisms (audibly or by slights), that dispirit the soul, and sometimes turn one “weak in the faith” away from the Lord, and the church. Sadly, it is often those who perceive themselves as “strong,” and mature in the faith, who are the greatest violators and offenders, having made themselves the judge, jury, and executioners.
Before you pass judgment, might I suggest you look in the mirror and ask: Who art thou that judges another? (14:4a)
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith