For the first time in our studies on Romans, we actually completed looking through a whole chapter last night!

Romans 14 continues Paul’s discussions on practical Christian living, how to ‘worship’ in every aspect of our lives. “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1) Paul goes on to give examples of what this looks like in everyday living. So easily, we find things to argue about. There is a fridge magnet that says ‘Everyone is entitled to my opinion’, and often we live as though that were the case. We have opinions on everything (the examples in the chapter are eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols or treating certain days as more sacred than others) and if someone else has a different opinion, well, they are the ones that are wrong and it’s our job to make sure they know it! ‘Putting down’, ‘condemning’, ‘treating with contempt‘ are all verbs used in this chapter to describe our attitudes towards others; all these attitudes are condemned by Paul, who says we should “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.” (Rom 14:13) and “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.” (Rom 14:19-20)

The fact that Paul spends so much time discussing what was obviously a problem in the early church shows us how easily we put our own interests before those of others, which is completely the opposite of what worship lived out actually looks like. There are, of course, key issues in the faith for which we must contend. But so often, there are grey areas: issues which may be interesting to debate, but which should never be used to browbeat others. Wearing make-up, what clothes to wear in church, eating halal meat, the length of hair acceptable for men… all of these issues can be ‘hot potatoes’ for us. But are they worth “destroying someone for whom Christ died”? (Rom 14:15) Paul reminds us that we do not live to ourselves alone (Rom 14:7). There has to be consideration and love in the way we live, even when debating fundamental truths. We will not agree with everyone in our own churches, let alone in other denominations or in the world. But we should remember that “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 and receives human approval” (Rom 14:17-18) and treat others as those for whom Christ died, just as much as we are grateful for the fact that He died for us.