19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:19-23 NIV)
– Sin results from not acting in faith (what does this mean?)
– Is this only about food (what we eat or what we drink)? How far does this apply in terms of conscience and conviction?
– The need of the other seems to be the guiding principal: peace, mutual edification, not causing another to stumble
At one time I lived in a community where, among other things, alcohol abuse was rampant. So we did not drink alcohol during that time – we did not buy it in town. We also didn’t make a big deal of it! Today I am in a different context and I behave differently. It was a conviction that I believed was from God that caused me to act as I did.
This is tough stuff to figure out. Paul talks about food – a much bigger deal in his day. Jewish food laws (kosher) and food that had been sacrificed to idols and then eaten by people caused Paul to speak in several places in his letters. What about playing cards? Going to the movies (and which movies are ok and which are not)? Where is the line when we move from “food” to matters are the core of faith?
Paul’s advice is pretty clear here, though. Acting out of love for our neighbor or fellow believer is always the right thing to do (note he does not say telling them what to do out of love!). When my actions are submitted to the needs of others I fulfill Christ’s command to love my neighbor as myself.
And faith also must come into play. It is not about food but faith – not about externals but internals. If I judged myself as strongly and as clearly as I sometimes judge others how different my walk and faithfulness might be.
Lord, as Jesus once told the disciples it was comes out of a person and not what goes into a person that makes him or her unclean… so may I look at what it is in me today. Where there is judgment rather than love, take it away. Where there is a critical eye replace it with love and mercy. Where I act out of anything but faith, renew and rework my motivation. May my heart be the focus of my judgment far more than the actions of others. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.