“Wrestling With Romans”
Don’t Be Judging (Chapter 14 Verses 1-12)
The Apostle now instructs us as to how we can achieve and maintain this sweet harmony within the Church, which is so important. We are not all the same, there is diversity within the unity of the Church (vv1-4). Both must be maintained. Now we must understand the condition Paul speaks of here as being weak (v1), it’s not a fixed one, it’s not the Christians who have been on the road a long time and have adopted, and entrenched themselves in a position which long-term has stunted their growth. No, it’s a person who is over scrupulous because their faith hasn’t developed yet as it should. It is through this person being accepted by the rest of the community that they grow out of their weakness. They need to be taught, their faith strengthened, and thereby grow into greater freedom, but growth takes time, therefore disputing with them doesn’t help. This weak person is a teachable person. The kind of weaknesses mentioned (v2-3), consist in over-the-top timidity, over-scrupulosity, much of which arose in Paul’s day over food offered to idols in Pagan worship festivals (1Corinthians 8). But when the strong and the weak come together there are two dangers that arise.
The strong in faith, whose legitimate Christian freedom simply rubbishes the weaker undeveloped Christian who is still unnecessarily bound (v3). Well, that is sinful! The other danger is that the unnecessarily weak, narrow believer, condemns the maturer and thus liberalised Christian. Again, that is sinful! Such action would result, not in development but in aggravation and polarisation, the opposite to unity. Paul has advice for each of them. God has accepted both parties (v3b), and if God has accepted a person, then who are you, or I, to condemn them (Romans 8.33-34)? He sharply rebukes here (v4). This weaker Christian needs time to grow, to develop in their thinking, to come to an understanding of true Christian liberty. It’s not enough to just be told by the stronger Christian, and then blindly accept what they say, that’s how cults begin. You abrogate your right to think as a human being at your peril. As consenting adults and rational beings made in God’s image we are responsible for our thinking and every consequent action. We are never just victims. We need grace to think and grace to allow others to think, and yes, to hold their own positions, as far as their thinking has led them, and give them time and space to grow into their liberty in Christ. No – everyone doesn’t have to agree with you!
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)