Liberty and Love

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 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. 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. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 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. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For 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. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:1–12 ESV).

The strong are to be welcoming, not condescending to the weak

The natural tendency for the person who has freedom would be to look down on the person who struggles in these areas. Rather, he is to accept him. Welcome or Accept in verse 1 means to “welcome into one’s fellowship and into one’s heart.”

The example given is with eating meat or only vegetables. For example, the “strong faith” man has “weak faith” man over for dinner. Strong faith man fires up the grill, pulls out the pork chops and goes to put them on the grill. The weak faith man takes one look at it and says, I can’t eat this! What should the strong faith man do? He could easily pull out his Bible and begin to beat him over the head screaming, Yes you can, Yes you can! You are free in Christ! God told Peter in the vision of the sheet coming down to rise and eat! He could do that. He also could look at him, shake his head, and say, Oh, my poor, pitiful, weaker faith brother. How I pity you. You are so far beneath me…. Both are wrong.

No. He is to accept him. To receive him into his heart. This might mean thinking about the menu before he comes over. He’s coming out of Judaism, maybe I should go with steak instead. Or how about a vegetarian dinner? But I hate plant-based meat and throw up when I eat broccoli! But stronger brother, is it about you or him? What is love’s call? But he’s wrong and I’m right and I’ve got Bible verses to prove it. Are any of your verses about sacrificial love? Stronger brother, welcome and accept the weaker brother. Don’t be condescending. Don’t be patronizing or think your meat choices or any other freedom make you godlier.

The weak are not to judge the strong

“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).

There were definitely bad attitudes in both directions. The strong condescended and the weak in turn piously judged the strong for their lack of spirituality. In the weak brother’s value set, the strong are wrong and questionably Christian for eating and drinking such things.

You can see this happening. In fact, you have possibly been on the receiving end of something like this: And you call yourself a Christian? As I suspected, you go to that church! The eyebrows raise and you can feel the contempt. According to their rules-based righteousness, we aren’t righteous.

I recall years ago I was scheduled to speak at a Christian high school chapel. This school was very conservative and fundamentalist. I was talking with a few teachers before it started, when suddenly one of the teens came running up and said, “Teacher, the girl who plays piano for chapel is sick, what are we going to do for music at chapel?”

I heard this and simply said, “Well, if you guys have a guitar, I would be glad to lead some worship!” These two teachers looked at me with veins popping and I could feel the scorn. “Oh…you play guitar do you?” Judgmentalism. Condemnation. Critical eyes. These are the struggles for the weaker brother.

“Believe as I believe—no more, no less,
That I am right, and no one else, confess;
Feel as I feel, think only as I think;
Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink;
Look as I look, do always as I do;
And then, and only then,
I’ll fellowship with you.”[1]

Those of you with weak consciences, don’t judge your brother because he participates in something that you don’t have freedom in your own conscience to do.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Anonymous as quoted by Thomas W. Hanford, Illustrated Home Book of Poetry and Song: Comprising Choice Selections from the Poets of All Lands and Ages, (St. Paul, MN: Globe Publishing Company, 1883), 278.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.