Romans 14:1-3, “1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.
The book of Romans is written by the Apostle Paul, and toward the end of Romans Paul begins to talk about the importance of our relationships with one another, because sometimes it can be difficult to establish deep, vibrant, healthy relationships with one another in the local church.
We are all coming from different backgrounds, different experiences, different social norms, and sometimes we are like porcupines bumping into one another. Most of the time we are actually trying not to hurt one another, but it still happens.
In the context of verses 1-3 there are men and women in a local church in Rome who are coming from Jewish backgrounds, and historically Jewish people followed dietary laws, but now these Jewish people were in Jesus, and they were wrestling with how to apply those old dietary laws. That’s why the Apostle Paul is talking about meat and vegetables in verses 1-3.
Some Jews were unable to find certain meats in Rome that were prepared according to the dietary laws of Jewish tradition, so they would just eat vegetables, and eventually someone would say to them, “Why are you worried about those old dietary laws? We are new in Jesus. Eat whatever you want!”
Then, that person would say, “Eat whatever I want! Don’t you care about our traditions as Jewish people? Don’t you care about what mom and dad will say? We must keep our dietary laws!” Thus, the porcupine dance!
That’s why in verse 3 the Apostle Paul writes, “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.”
The word “contempt” means to despise, and the word “judge” means to look down upon, so that both groups of people were using biblical reasons to look down on one another. The porcupine dance! Lets give some examples it in our context today.
- First, the Apostle Paul isn’t talking about areas of biblical doctrine, saying those things aren’t important, just focus on healthy relationships. There are matters of our faith like Jesus is God in the flesh, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, takes our sins at the cross, resurrects from the dead, so that by grace through faith in Jesus we are made new. Those things are not up for debate.
- The Apostle Paul isn’t even talking about areas of Scripture that describes what is sin, what is not sin, what is holy, what is not holy. Those things are not up for debate.
The Apostle Paul is talking about those areas of life that are a little gray, and we use those gray areas to elevate ourselves, and look down on one another.
- Alcohol is an easy example. Scripture makes it clear that we are not to get drunk, so that is clear, but for some people they are comfortable having a beer or glass of wine at dinner, and for some people, it is something they choose to avoid. As a result, one group could say to the other, “What, you don’t enjoy celebrating God’s goodness in life with a glass of wine?” The other group could say to the other, “What, you drink the devil’s brew?”
- Movies are a common one also. Scripture makes it clear that we don’t give ourselves over to pornography, but one group could say, “What, you watch movies with violence? How could you?” The other group could say, “What, you watch Disney movies? How could you?”
- We could do this with education. One group says to another, “What, you don’t home school your children? Don’t you care about your children’s soul?” The other group might say, “What, don’t you care about teaching your children how to be salt and light?”
- You can do this what food is considered healthy, and looking down on those who don’t, and looking down on those who do.
- You can do this with styles of music, contemporary, hymns, organs, and choirs, and some people will argue that one style is more godly than the other.
- You can do this with different bible translations; ESV, NAS, NIV, or King James, and one is obviously more godly than the other.
- You can do this with birth control; don’t you trust God with your future children, don’t you plan your life, so as to honor the Lord?
In most local churches you see the majority of the people holding to similar political values, but the Lord has blessed North Village Church with a politically diverse church family, and if we’re not careful it doesn’t take long for a political conversation to get really emotional, really fast, and the porcupine dance is coming.
Right now our country is having discussions around race, gun control, abortion, immigration, environment, economy, and in each of those examples you can see how it would be easy for us to elevate ourselves for holding the “correct position” and looking down on someone else for holding the “wrong position.”
Therefore, in verses 1-3 the Apostle Paul writes, “Eating meat, eating vegetables; it isn’t the focus. We all have areas where we are weak in our faith, therefore, what matters is that we pursue healthy, vibrant relationships with one another.
Romans 14:4-5, “4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
We can read verse 4, “Who are you to judge a servant of another” and convince ourselves that the goal of our relationships with one another is to just smile, nod, and never judge one another. But, that isn’t what the Apostle Paul means by “who are you to judge the servant of another?” Lets talk about judgment.
- In our culture today we are kind of in a transition around our use of judgment. In the past our culture largely leaned on being anti-judgment. Our culture would uses phrases like, “Who am I to judge? Judge free zone. You do you. Find your truth.” and it would foster this pseudo love toward others by being indifferent toward one another. It was weird.
- But, today, there is a cultural shift in our use of judgment, because today our culture is judging everyone. We are judging politicians, police officers, celebrities, teachers, parents, doctors, things people did and said 30 years ago, and we are judging historical events. It’s like we have been saving up our judgment for 2019, and we’re just letting it fly.
But, in verse 4 the Apostle Paul is not advocating a “judgment free zone” where we never talk, and the Apostle Paul is not advocating for little judges pointing the finger at one another, but the Apostle Paul is advocating for a specific heart attitude behind our judgment.
This is why the gospel is so important. In verse 4, the master is Jesus, and we are all His servants, therefore, who are we to judge one another in self-righteousness and look down on one another with phrases like, “How could you?”
We are all sinners saved by grace, therefore, our judgment is never in a place of, “How could you?” because I know how you could, because I could too. It’s all about a heart attitude shaped by the gospel.
It isn’t that we are absent of judgment, but that our judgment is in a place of humility and grace as we and point one another to our hope in Jesus, and try our hardest to pursue deep, healthy, vibrant relationship with one another.
- For example, if you see me walking toward the middle of Mo-Pac then you wouldn’t want to be indifferent and say, “You do you, Michael!” That’s weird. You wouldn’t want to ridicule me from the side of the road, “Look at this moron walking in Mo-Pac.” But, you would want to use your judgment, and with humility, because you could end up and in the same place, you pursue me to pull me out of the road. You with me?
- If you see me interested a political position that you don’t prefer you wouldn’t want to be indifferent toward me, and keep me at a distance (We just don’t talk). You wouldn’t want to assume I am an idiot, elevate yourself, and put me down in the process.
But, instead with humility, grace, and sincerity of heart you would want to learn why I am so excited about that political position. You would want to genuinely ask, “How did I come to those conclusions? How do I respond to these objections?”
You would want to make every effort to see my side of things and understand why it is so important, and it would never be to persuade me to abandon my position, but to help me become more convinced of that position.
That’s why the Apostle Paul writes verse 5, “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” The word “convinced” means to be certain, examined, and sharp, so that through our relationships with one another we are actually sharpening one another.
Listen, I am not assuming we know how to do this. We will get into some practical steps in a second, but this is the dream that can happen in our relationships with one another in the local church. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Romans 14:6-8, “6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
In verses 6-8 the Apostle Paul simply reminds us that our goal is not to get everyone in the room to think like we think on secondary issues (not primary issues of the faith, just to be clear).
On matters of faith in Jesus we want to persuade as many as possible, but on secondary issues we are to help one another become more convinced as though it were unto the Lord. Do you see the pattern in verses 6-8, “For the Lord, for the Lord, for the Lord, for the Lord, for we are the Lord’s?”
This is why we start with Jesus being at the center of our lives in our church family. It is because Jesus is worthy to be at the center of every thought, view, emotion we have in life, so that with clarity and conviction before Jesus we can say, “This is where I stand on this secondary issue!” and we sharpen one another in the process.
The only way I know that we have a chance of getting close to what Romans 14 is describing is if we have an incredible commitment to one another. We will actually talk more about this next Sunday, because over the next 12-months we are going to focus on “Connecting to North Village Church” and we are rallying everyone to “Initiate closer relationships with one another” because this is an area where we need to grow.
Illustration: We have some diversity in our church family of age, ethnicity, education, incomes, stage of life, political background, and if we are not careful we can drift toward people who are like us, so that we become a clusters of groups, and if we are not careful we will miss out on deep, vibrant, healthy relationships with one another.
But, we have to make a commitment to move outside of that comfort zone. We have to make a commitment to approach one another with humility and grace. We have to make a commitment to walk into social settings like Sunday morning, community group, birthday parties, picnics, and lunches, and say, “I am going to make movement toward people I don’t know.”
It means instead of walking in a room and asking, “Where are the people I know?” We walk in a room and ask, “Where are the people I don’t know?” Is anyone new? Is anyone alone? Is there anyone who thinks different than I do, and how can I learn from them? Don’t you want that?
It’s possible that Romans 14 could make us a little nervous like, “I should probably never talk to anyone” but the good news is that Jesus has already done this for us.
It is Jesus who already walked into the room of humanity that has a completely different view on life. It is Jesus who could have elevated Himself, but instead humbles Himself to seek us out.
It is that He has every right to look down upon in judgment, but instead takes our judgment upon Himself. It is only Jesus that calls our sin, sin, and then wraps His arms around us to forgive us, cleanse us, indwell us, and empower us to have deep, vibrant, healthy relationships with one another. Don’t you want those types of relationships?