Romans Bible Guide – Day 35
March 20, 2016
Previously, in Romans: Paul’s been writing about healthy civic and community life amongst followers of Jesus, saying it’s marked by devotion to Jesus and by love of neighbor.
14 Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2 Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3 Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6 Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Points of Interest:
- ‘Welcome those who are weak in faith’ – “Weak in faith” is clearly a pejorative term coined by the so-called “strong,” but Paul accepts it for the sake of addressing the divisions in Rome. “Weak” could refer to those with more scruples regarding religion and food, primarily Jewish followers of Jesus who still follow the full Old Testament kosher law. It also reflects minority status in this largely Gentile community.
- ‘but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions’ – Paul began by telling the majority to welcome those in the minority into their worship. Receive them, include them, commune with them. But this welcome moves beyond tolerance toward acceptance. He specifically points out that welcome when you’re trying to argue with and change someone isn’t really welcome.
- ‘must not despise… must not pass judgment’ – Paul names the universal tendency in diverse communities, for groups to find their own position and views superior and to judge those who think and act differently. Paul tells both sides to knock it off, and in doing so, elucidates the meaning of judgment pretty well. To “pass judgment” on another is at some level to despise them. Why is this off the table from one follower of Jesus to another? Because anyone God welcomes should be welcomed by us as well.
- ‘some judge one day to be better than another’ – Paul moves from kosher laws to Sabbath laws and other questions of holy days. This may sound like an obscure conflict to be worked up about to you and me. But Sabbath observance was a first-order moral issue for Jews, going straight to the 10 commandments. This passage is talking about important religious or moral issues that not everyone in the community agrees on.
- ‘let all be fully convinced in their own minds’ – The way forward for the individual amidst controversy is to make up your mind. Paul speaks to the significance of developing and paying attention to our own conscience. Morals and issues matter, but our responsibility is to find our own way forward, not to persuade, criticize, censor, or judge our neighbor.
- ‘we do not live to ourselves…’ – I find that vs. 7-9 break the flow of the argument a little, and it’s hard for me to fully grasp their contribution. I think they’re extending the point of the previous paragraph, that we live before an audience of one. If we embrace Jesus as Lord, as Paul’s repeatedly called him, then we’ll want him to guide and direct our lives. And so in disputable matters of ethics and religious practice, we’re encouraged to practice faith and aim for increasing connection to a living God.
- ‘why do you despise your brother or sister’ – Paul reminds Jewish and Gentile believers, perhaps in different house churches, that they are family first, different in culture and conviction second. What a powerful way to see your church or broader community of faith – race and class and sexual orientation and politics and style and moral convictions are all important, but they are all secondary to a shared family identity that disallows judgment, disdain, or rejection.
- ‘each of us will be accountable to God’ – Paul’s back to his favorite Old Testament source, Isaiah (here 49:18 and 45:23) to remind the community that all will be accountable to God. This means we can refrain from judgment of others and leave it in the hands of a fairer and more accurate judge. It also means that rejection of others just because you disagree with them is harm that we’ll have to account for to God when we meet God face to face.
Taking It Home:
For you – What behavior or convictions in others most evoke arguing and judgment in you? Ask God for faith to trust these people to God’s judgment, and try to practice love and welcome for someone like this today, or at the next available opportunity.
For your church – In a polarized age, being a Romans 14 community of love and unity in difference can be a tremendous witness to the good news power of Jesus. Pray that our church will be just such a community.