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Paul's letter to the Romans

chapter  14

God accepts both

This chapter,  with part of the next,  speaks directly to the things that could cause problems between Gentile and Jewish Christians.   Jewish Christians had retained the food laws and other ritual aspects such as circumcision which Gentile Christians had felt free to abandon.   To the Gentiles this came across as 'weakness'  -  the failure to appreciate to the full the liberty that faith bestows.   It also tended to discourage meal fellowship across the divide.

When Nero allowed Jews,  and therefore Jewish Christians,  to return to Rome they would have had problems,  at least for a time,  in obtaining meat from animals that had been ritually slaughtered in the appropriate manner.   The response of observant Jews in such situations was to settle for a strictly vegetarian diet.

If someone is 'weak' in faith,  accept them anyway,  without starting an argument.   For example one person has faith enough to eat any kind of food,  while a weaker person eats only vegetables.   The one who eats must not scorn the one who doesn't  -  and vice versa  -  for God accepts them both.   It is no business of yours to criticize someone else's servant.   Whether they stand or fall is their own Master's business.   In fact they will stand:  the Master will make sure of it.

This person makes one day special,  that person treats all days alike.   People have to draw their own conclusions about things like that.   You can respect the day,  honouring the Lord;  you can eat meat honouring the Lord;  you can abstain and do just as much honour to the Lord,  giving thanks to God.   We don't live or die thinking only of ourselves.   We live,  or we die,  for the Lord.   Christ died and rose to establish his lordship over dead and living.   So you!  why do you criticize your companion?   And you!  why do you despise your neighbour?   The judgment will come when we stand before God's tribunal:  'By my life,  says God,  every knee shall bow to me,  every tongue shall acknowledge me  (Is 45:23).'   We'll all have to answer for ourselves.

We must stop passing judgment on one another and instead make the simple rule for ourselves that no obstacle or stumbling-block should be put in someone else's way.   For myself,  as a Christian,  I'm quite sure that uncleanness doesn't reside in the thing itself.   But if someone believes it unclean then that's what it is,  as far as that person is concerned.   If you shock another by what you eat,  that isn't loving behaviour.   You mustn't let your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.   A thing may be entirely good as far as you are concerned,  but all the same it can't be allowed to scandalize somebody else.   At the end of the day the kingdom of God isn't eating or drinking one thing or another.   It is righteousness and joy and peace through the Holy Spirit.   If that is the character of your service to Christ you will please God,  and the people around you as well.

So let us take the road that leads to peace and builds up life in community.   Don't wreck God's work just for the sake of food.   Everything is clean in itself,  but all the same it can be bad for you if by eating it you cause the downfall of someone else.   It's a very good thing to give up meat or wine or anything that trips up your neighbour.   If you are quite sure about the right conduct for you then that is what you should do.   It's a blessing if you can make your decision with a clear conscience.   But if you are not sure then it is wrong to eat,  because you lack conviction.   Anything done in bad faith is a sin.

  paraphrase and notes by Evan Lewis


Making connections with Paul the apostle
What Paul did NOT write

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