The Tension of Gray Areas

October 15, 2020

Romans 14:1-23

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Therefore let us 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. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For 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.

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. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

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. 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.

Devotion

One noticeable difference between Christianity and most other religions is that Christians are not bound by ritualistic rules. Paul discusses two examples here in Romans fourteen: special days of religious observance and food. However, the principles he sets forth apply to all matters of conscience, the “gray” areas of life for which Scripture prescribes no specific behavior one way or another.

Special observances and food were apparently trouble spots for the Roman believers. No doubt those from Jewish backgrounds brought their heritage of strict sabbath-keeping and were shocked to find the Gentile believers not adhering to their standard of keeping the sabbath holy. Likewise, some from pagan backgrounds may have encouraged the church to form its own counterparts to the festival days they had practiced in their former religions. Either way, it created tension in the early church.

So how does Paul deal with this tension? First, he teaches that no Christian should judge another regarding disputable things (vv. 3-4, 13). Second, he teaches that each person needs to come to his/her own convictions regarding matters of conscious (vv. 5, 22-23). Three, we are not only free to do as we please, we must also answer to the Lord for our behavior (vv. 7-8, 12). Four, we should avoid offending others by flaunting our liberty (v. 13). Five, we should practice love, pursuing peace in the body and that which builds others up in the faith (vv. 15, 19).

Paul communicates that neither pressure from other people nor tradition should bind our consciences. Instead, we are to seek guidance from the Spirit of God as to what we should do. Having inspired the Scriptures, God will help us determine what we should do as we study them.

Questions to Ponder:

Have you ever questioned someone’s spirituality over disputable matters? Have you ever judged someone for not adhering to your religious traditions? Why do some believe it’s easier to follow the rules than to follow the voce of the Holy Spirit? What is the difference between personal preferences and biblical truth?

Prayer Points

  • Worship the LORD as our Father, in whom all those in heaven and on earth derive their name. Praise Him for His strength, consistency, and patience.
  • Invite the Spirit of Truth to reveal to you hidden sins, such as things you think about or hide in your heart that you know are not godly. Repent from those evil thoughts and receive His forgiving love.
  • Ask the LORD to grant you strength to lead you out of temptation and deliver you from evil. Ask Him if He wants you to share any struggle with another person for accountability, as well as confess sin with that person so that he/she can pray for you so you may be healed.

Suggested Prayer
Lord of all Creation, I bow down and tremble at You and Your Word. You are holy, righteous, and true. Almighty God who is the LORD of all, I ask that You would lead me and Your church into a place of support, love, grace, and truth. Father, teach us how to pray for all those in authority whether we like the person/people or not. I ask this election that You would mark us, Your church, with Your crazy love that causes us to only speak well of others. Teach us how to pray for those around us so that many will see our love, our unity, and know we are from You. In the name of Jesus Christ, I ask all of this. Amen.

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