SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- During the time Romans was written, both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) were coming to faith in Jesus. The problem was that they had very different traditions and ways of living everyday life. The Jews had specific rules about what they shouldn't eat, when they should go to the temple and worship, and what holidays they should observe. However, the Gentiles did not have such rules to live by.
- Idol worship was also rampant at the time. Other religions would sacrifice animals to their "god" and then sell the meat at a butcher shop. Jewish Christians felt that eating that meat was the same as worshipping the false god, but non-Jewish Christians didn't agree and would buy and eat the meat. This was causing division in the early church.
- Paul addresses both sides of the debate and instructs Christians to not look down on and judge each other because their viewpoint is different than their own. Matters such as food and drink are minor and trivial. So, if another Christian has a personal conviction don’t try to prove them wrong. Instead, share your own conviction while maintaining an attitude of love and humility (verse 3). Remember that everyone is accountable to God and not to us (thankfully!).
- He also tells Christians to make up their minds to not put any stumbling block or obstacle in each other’s way. If you know that a certain food, drink, or behavior is troubling for a friend, lovingly abstain from that activity in their presence. We should care more about other people than our own comfort. Don’t make life more difficult or tempting for them.
- Just like we learned in the previous chapter it all comes down to one word: love. We need to love others more than we love ourselves. By simply living in love we will treat each other with respect and care for one another's convictions and also help keep our fellow friends strong and away from temptation. Verse 19 says to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” If we're honest, this takes great effort and is difficult to achieve. But, we can do it with strength from God.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Take a close and honest look at your life. Where are you judging others rather than accepting where they're at and loving them? On the flip side, where might you be causing others to stumble in their journey rather than helping them to move forward? Make a commitment and ask for God's help to stop judging, start helping, and to truly live a life of love.