DO NOT JUDGE
Gracious Lord, you are all wisdom. Teach me the ways of holiness, compassion, and love. Teach me the way of Christ.
Read ROMANS 14:1-9
The Weak and the Strong
14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 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. 4 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.
5 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. 6 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. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 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. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
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Jesus said, ‘Do not judge … others’.1 Allow today’s reading to challenge your own assumptions about other people.
Do we – unconsciously even – judge other Christians? The Roman Christians, made up of those who continued to respect Jewish traditions and Gentile converts, were clearly disagreeing over food and ‘special’ days (vs 2–6). We can think of comparable issues in our own 21st- century culture (e.g. alcohol, behavior on Sundays). However, difference of opinion and behavior is not the question here. ‘Disputable matters’ (see v 1)2 assumes, by implication, that there are agreed matters that Christian brothers and sisters have in common: our living is before the Sovereign Lord; we belong to the risen Christ who gave his life for us (vs 8,9). The question is, who am I to judge another disciple of Christ who chooses to live differently from me? It’s not up to me to assume God’s role of judge (v 4).
The use of the word ‘weak’ here might seem confusing at first (v 1).3 The context of the letter is important. The faith Paul has been exploring in earlier chapters is dependent on the freely given gift of redemption through Christ, in contrast to dependence on the old laws and rituals. For some Jewish Christians (or those who had been former God- fearers), dependence on grace alone felt risky. ‘Weak’ in faith does not refer to their character, but rather the nature of that faith – it is God in Chrit who has wholly achieved our salvation. Do our own attitudes sometimes suggest a self-belief in my way of following Jesus?
Paul’s antidote is acceptance of one another (v 1). Echoing the ‘love one another’ principle,4 he urges that we accommodate difference, acknowledging our common purpose of honoring the Lord (vs 5–8). Meanwhile, we need to pay attention to our own thoughtfulness and conscience before God.
‘If we live, we live for the Lord’ (v 8). Are we truly honoring God in each aspect of our living for him?
Guide me Lord, to be your kind of person in times of disagreement. I seek a special portion of the Holy Spirit in such times of crisis.
1 Matt 7:1,2 2 John Stott, Romans, 1994 p357–359 3 See also Rom 15:1; Scot McKnight, Reading Romans Backwards, SCM, 2019, p17–21 4 Rom 13:8