Acceptance (Romans Chapters 14 and 15)

Acceptance (Romans Chapters 14 and 15)

Sharing is caring!

Paul’s primary concern in this section of Romans is not how the Christian is to conduct himself in society, but how we express our new life within the believing community. This is not because society is unimportant. It is because the Christian community as well as the individual is to witness to the reality of Jesus. On one hand, the Christian community is the context in which individual believers can grow to their full stature as Christ’s people. On the other, the love which marks Christian relationships is itself a powerful testimony to Christ’s presence. For each of these purposes to be achieved, the church must truly be the righteous, loving community which Scripture describes.

It’s no wonder, then, that Paul described attitudes toward others which build community. Strikingly, each of the attitudes reflects Jesus’ own attitude toward us. Paul dealt with an issue which often creates conflict in churches: convictions. These are not matters which Scripture identifies as “sin.” They are, however, issues which seems “wrong” to some believers, and “right” to others.

Actually, all of us differ from others in significant ways. We Christians have different opinions about what a believer should and shouldn’t do. Some think women should be ordained; others violently disagree. Some, in Paul’s day, thought it was “Christian” to be vegetarian, while others liked a good steak. Some then felt Christians should observe special “holy” days, and others felt all days are alike.

These differences tended then as now to divide believers into subgroups of “them” and “us.” And all such antagonistic divisions are harmful to community! All distort the unity and ministry of Jesus’ church.

How does Romans teach we are to deal with such differences? Paul suggested several positive steps and attitudes we are to develop. First, we are to actively welcome even those with a weak faith (v. 1). Second, we are to recognize Jesus as Lord (versus 6-12). Christ arose and thus is alive so that He might be Lord for His people. Each of us is responsible to Jesus as Lord; we are not responsible to each other. Third, we are to each explore the issues over which believers have convictions and “be fully convinced in his own mind” (v. 5).

What we are not to do in our relationships with other Christians is clearly identified. We are not to condemn others whose convictions differ from ours (v. 3). We are not to look down on them for being “less spiritual” than we (v. 3). Bluntly put, we are not to judge them at all (v. 1). Jesus is Lord, and they are responsible to Him. If they have sinned, Jesus will judge them. We have no business intruding into this relationship of responsibility of a fellow believer to the Lord (v. 13).

We should look to Christ as our model. “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him” (Romans 14:3). “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” “It is before his own master that he stands or falls.” “And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

How important then, that like Jesus, we love and accept each other, and try to build each other up rather than tear one another down because of the ways in which we differ. Often the differences that do exist between us will trouble an entire fellowship. Some, who have the freedom to do what others question, may in the exercise of that freedom, cause the brother harm.

Paul is clear here. Nothing that is not identified in Scripture as sin is unclean or wrong in itself. But neither is it more important than our brother or sister. So we Christians walk a fine line. We affirm our freedom and responsibility to live by our own convictions. Yet we are careful not to flaunt them, so that others may follow our example despite personal doubts, or may condemn us for what we ourselves believe to be good and right.

In this area, Paul gives several practical suggestions: “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God” (Romans 14:22). “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not please ourselves” (Romans 15:1). The goal toward which we are to work, giving it priority rather than convictions, is that “The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.” “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6).
God Bless You All!