When it comes to the church, we end up with a lot of very different people in the same family. Our differences stem from our nationalities, our ethnicities, and our upbringings. More than these, we are also different in the ways that we pursue God. It’s that last difference that Paul focuses on in Romans 14:1-15:12. Some people, Paul says, hold certain days as holy, while others don’t. Similarly, some Christians abstain from meat, while others eat whatever lands on the table. What do we do with such differences, especially when they deal with matters of personal holiness? Paul’s answer to this question moves in two directions.
First, Christians should refrain from judging one another’s piety. Ultimately, personal piety is a matter between a person and his or her Lord. To infringe on that personal relationship, Paul says, is to play the part of Jesus. After all, only the Master has the right to judge his servant. We need to be very careful of speaking out of turn.
Second, we Christians should let love control. So, I believe that eating meat is fine, but someone else has trouble with so much freedom. What should I do? Instead of arguing (or complaining) about my rights, my focus should be on love. What is the loving thing to do? Of particular importance here is the need to edify one another. Yes, it’s fine for me to eat meat, but doing so in the presence of particular brothers and sisters might actually harm their faith. If that’s the case, the course of action is easily discerned: protect the brother’s faith by refraining from meat for a meal. Let love control.
Of course, none of this means that we Christians should never speak into one another’s lives. There are moments when we’ll need to call out one another’s sins. And, there will be moments when the Spirit allows us to discuss our convictions concerning personal piety. The key isn’t to just have everyone mind their own business. No, the key is to affirm one another’s pursuits of God even when their pursuits don’t look like our own. When it comes to these matters of conscience (what to eat, what days to set aside, etc.), we should give space. After all, the main thing here is the pursuit of Jesus rather than exactly what that pursuit looks like. If we’re all pursuing, our community is in a pretty good place.
May God give us humility to let Jesus be the Lord of one another’s lives. And, may he give us grace to act lovingly toward one another.