How we treat each other matters—it matters to God. Specifically, how we treat other believers reflects a message (good or bad) to the watching world. Our character is on display.
Shouldn’t they know us by our love?
Here, as Paul is drawing to the end of his letter, he finds it necessary to address a concern for the church in Rome. But, if we are honest with ourselves, the problem of how we treat each other needs to be addressed today.
- Do not judge one another (Romans 14:1-12).
- Do not make another stumble (Romans 14:13-23).
I was tempted to move on to chapter 15 because it gives us the answer to these “do not’s”: please others and not yourself. As much as I want to go there first, my soul says stop here in Chapter 14 to gain much needed insight and instruction.
Do Not Judge
Woah! Let’s not try to settle in here gently. Most of us know and remember Jesus’ famous words, “Judge not lest you be judged.”
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.(Romans 14:4).
Weak Christians are all around us. They’re weak in their faith. Because we’re stronger in the faith, should we hold in contempt those who are not? Yet, there are debatable areas of conduct. If a Christian smokes, does that make him or her less a Christian, ready for God’s wrath? If a Christian indulges in a little wine, does that mean a loss of faith?
Everyone is held accountable to God, who is the true Judge of all.
I went to church many years ago, in Kansas, and one day I was setting next to a woman who had a torn Bible. The Bible was not torn from neglect or over loved, but pages were ripped out. I asked her why, and she responded,“ I didn’t like what it said.”
I admit it appalled me at first, but I refused to let it show. I suddenly prayed for the Holy Spirit’s counsel, for this was no coincidence. I asked her if she had a little time, and we discussed the value of the Bible: it is alive to pierce the soul and profitable for inspiration, rebuke, correction, and training in righteous living. After a few Sundays of encouragement, I noticed she had a new shiny Bible and, better yet, a greater appreciation of God’s gentle touch on her soul.
Her faith grew.
What would have happened if I approached her another way? A spirit of judgment is a spirit of pride. The enemy is sly and crafty to use it to his advantage. Many a walking wounded in the faith can attest to this truth. A critical eye causes harm—causes spiritual harm.
God’s opinion matters most. He receives not only the strong at the cost of the weak, but accepts both. In good conscienceless we can differ, but in truth we all will face the Master personally. He knows the heart and if they will stand or fall.
Like a Good Shepherd, He leads the entire flock.
We belong to the Lord
Before we leave these treasured passages, I would like to focus on a hidden nugget. In the moment of correction, we can miss this life giving instruction:
Whether dead or alive, we belong to the Lord.
Occasionally, we are own worst judges and such judgment hurts our soul. God is touched by our tears, even if the harm is self-inflicted.
For not one of us lives for himself, not one of us dies for himself; 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. For Christ died and lived, that He might be Lord of both of the dead and the living.Romans 14:7-9
Living the “with-God” life makes a difference. In life and death, we are with God. He cares about us, how we judge or misjudge ourselves. He hears the self talk in our head. We say the harshest things to ourselves that would never even entertain saying to someone else.
God’s love for you is so great, His heart hurts when you browbeat yourself over even the most mundane mistake. He made you just the way He did, and although we are full of flaws, He is not. Self-help books are not all a God-send.
Stop judging yourself so severely. You belong to the Lord, and so He will shape and form you into His masterpiece. His corrective timing and gentle touch are sent to transform you into a vessel of honor.
Trust the Master. He is faithful and will not let you fall.
Do Not Make Someone Stumble (Romans 14:13-23)
Being a stumbling block to someone is a real thing. As a teacher—a teaching pastor, these words hold significant weight.
There’s a teacher I heard on the podcast who spent weeks discussing the merits of hell. Some were Scripturally based and others not so. One’s opinion is not the gospel truth. He spoke of hell as painful but only for a short time or long, dependent on your measure of sin. Then after that time, you just cease to exist. Of course, Hitler’s time in hell would be a bit longer and even more painful.
Truth! God’s wrath is God’s wrath, and whether you think it will merely be a slap on the hand or a slap across the face is irrelevant. Eternal death is eternal. Let us not make another stumble and sin to think God’s wrath isn’t such a big deal. It is.
Such a teacher is a stumbling block to others. A teacher on social media should be set to a higher standard. Honest, every teacher, preacher, or lay leader is accountable to God for bringing out the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The cult of personality is a real thing too.
Anything else is a stumbling block.
On the other hand, these words do not apply only to teachers of Sacred Scripture, but to every believer. We need to be transparent. We are sinners saved by grace. Furthermore, we are sinners because we sin, not because there’s sin in the world.
We are not “habitual” sinners because we treasure the “with-God” life. Any sin so easily separates us from Christ and not worth justifying. With sin is “without Christ.” Anyone who has walked with God for any significant amount of time will find this situation so painful to continue. We run to God for forgiveness, and He is so faithful and gracious to forgive.
Again, with the self-talk. We can be our own stumbling block too. Let us stop and examine ourselves. Better yet, allow the search light of God come in and do a thorough job. What He finds there He will resolve it and better your soul for it.
A blind spot is a bling spot until it’s not.
So, see that you do nothing to make another stumble or fall. We may have come to terms with that glass of wine, but not someone else. So refrain in public and wine in private. Righteousness—right standing with God—is not a right, but a gift. Peace is contentment with God, not self. Joy is not in doing our own thing but delight in the Lord. Righteousness and peace and joy is of greater value than what we eat or drink.
Put these things first, and you’ll be less like to offend another person.
Concentrate on what brings harmony and, as a sister disciple, on the growth of character honed in as you cultivate your love relationship with Christ. Encourage rather than impede another’s progress in the faith.
Walk according to love… with God.
For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with food him for whom Christ died. Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So that we pursue the things which make for peace and building up of another.Romans 14:15-19
What we do matters to God. A stumbling block is something that leads another to sin, and we can do that merely by our attitude of judgment or pride. Let us not be found being an obstacle to someone’s faith. If they stand or fall, it is up to the Lord, and He is faithful to make us stand by His counsel, instruction, and yes, correction.
He holds the weak and the strong in His righteous right hand.
Be patient with others, you are where you are, with God because He was patient with you. Your opinion is not the universal standard for everyone else. The with God life is a treasure.
Pray for others to find their way to it. This too is how we should live in a wicked and sin-sick generation. A shining light in darkness.
THEY WILL KNOW US BY OUR LOVE