Romans 14 (NRSV)
Do Not Judge Another
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.
“Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.”
2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those 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. 4Who 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.
Although vegetarians can perhaps make family gatherings a little tricky, whether or not to eat meat is generally not a spiritual question. But there are plenty of other things where believers may disagree on what they consider spiritual matters. One evening a guest in my home announced over the dinner table that no Christian, in his mind, could vote Democrat, as if that were the eleventh commandment. I have heard bitter arguments about guitars or drums in church — or complaints from successful business people who whine when the pastor doesn’t wear a robe while he is preaching — or judgments on people who have a car or a house that someone else thinks is too big or too expensive. All these from folks who call themselves Christians! You no doubt could add other gems to this list.
Paul says, let other people be. Mind your own business. Just be kind, and honor the Lord in all these situations.
(When you think about this, it is quite freeing! — and it shouldn’t be that hard to do. Self, take note!)
5Some 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. 6Those 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.
7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If 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.
The doctors at Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta had just told me my 6-year-old daughter had less than a 40 percent chance to live, and that her best hope was a difficult experimental treatment — would I give permission? We had been with Maureen in the hospital for several months as she struggled with Toxic Shock Syndrome that had settled in her lungs. Her fevers were sky high. Her thrashing about was so violent they put her into a drug-induced coma. She had been on a ventilator for a month because of breathing issues. My prayers as I begged for her healing seemed to be bouncing off an iron sky.
But I had to give the doctors an answer. So I went upstairs to the chapel. Usually when I went there I read from the big pulpit Bible they had open on a stand. But that day I fell to the floor and buried my face in the carpet, crying until there were no more tears.
And then this verse was suddenly, clearly, in my mind. 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. And with this verse came the assurance that no matter what happened, Maureen belonged to God. And so did I. God is faithful and trustworthy. (This was a true time-out-of-time moment for me, the Holy Spirit at work in my life. I thought later of John 14:26 — But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.) Then I prayed a prayer that seemed to me to reach heaven — “Lord, I give my daughter to you, to live or die, as you choose. But I am her mother, and I beg for her life.” I got up off the floor, went to her doctors, and gave them my permission to go ahead with the experimental treatment.
They were going to start the procedure at 5 PM that day. But at 3 PM, she started breathing more easily, so they delayed it — and little by little, my daughter Maureen improved enough so that she never needed the experimental procedure. God restored her life. She got well and grew up, graduated from high school and college, married and had two children. She is pictured above with her own daughter, Calli Grace. And I praise God!
“Whether we live or die” — that covers everything, doesn’t it?! — “we are the Lord’s.” So we can all breathe more easily.
9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
10Why 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. 11For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Do Not Make Another Stumble
13Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. 14I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16So do not let your good be spoken of as evil.
17For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. 19Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; 21it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. 22The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. 23But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
“I Am Free” by Jon Egan. I can remember Maureen dancing to this song. Let’s celebrate our freedom in Christ right now! HERE.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.