How does the Church love each other? Part II – March 17, 2024

Romans 14:13-19

13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. 14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. 16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. 19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 

What does it look like for the Church to love one another? Is it about friendliness? Being there for one another? It certainly involves those things, but Christian love is so much more. Last week, we learned from Romans 14:1-12 that Christian love means acceptance of one another despite our differences. This acceptance is predicated on the reality that God has received each believer in Christ, God rules each believer, and God will judge each believer. Being saved from all different backgrounds and coming from different ways of looking at things, a local church faces a variety of convictions and perspectives of what it looks like to live faithfully for Christ in certain areas that God’s Word does not specifically address. How should a Christian dress? What is a Christian allowed to eat and drink? What places are Christians allowed to go? What style of music should churches use in worship? These matters and many more are not directly outlined in command or indirectly addressed in principle in God’s Word. Christians demonstrate their love for one another in accepting each other despite differences of opinion and conviction about such things.

In Romans 14:13-19, the Apostle Paul addresses the division and mistreatment that sometimes existed between strong and weak Christians. Strong Christians are those who recognize their liberty in Christ to freely do certain things. Weak Christians have a conscience that will not allow them to partake in those freedoms. After instructing them not to judge one another, Paul now writes and instructs both groups what they are to do instead: edify one another.

In verses 13-19, Paul gives the instruction that instead of judging each other, believers should “judge” (determine) to not “put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” A stumbling block is an obstacle unintentionally placed in someone’s path that causes them to fall. Some people deliberately cause others to fall and that is called being a hindrance. Being in one family of God, we should seek to avoid being either. Paul primarily addresses strong Christians here who were exercising their freedoms in Christ. However, they were doing so in such a way that harmed their weaker brothers and sisters. Liberty is a good thing, but if it is used to harm the conscience or hinder the walk of a fellow Christian, it is no longer liberty; it is sin. Paul’s point is summed up when he writes, “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” Believers who believe they are free to do something should never do so if what they are doing causes harm or damages the conscience of a fellow Christian. The way to edify (build up) each other is by first giving preference to one another. That means we do not live our lives for our own sake and comfort. We orient our lives in such a way that we consider how the things we participate in affect our brothers and sisters in our church. The second way we edify is by living in such a way that we do not do damage to our testimony or the testimony of our church. We do this by avoiding things that are considered (but are not necessarily) sinful by those around us. When we live faithfully in this way, the church together bears a clean testimony. The last way we edify is by seeking peace with each other. If I know that what I am going to do is not something that Christ has specifically commanded in His Word and it causes division in my church family, then I should not do it. Instead, we should seek to adjust our lives in such way to pursue peace with one another. Liberty is not to be used for self-advancement and pleasure. It is to be used in love for the good (edifying) of others (Galatians 5:13).

How does all of this work itself out? I may be perfectly free to participate in something in my life. However, if what I do in any way brings harm to my brother or sister in Christ in my church, I should not do it. If what I do in any way brings damage to my testimony, I should not do it. Even if those things are perfectly right, I must exercise my liberty in such a way for the good of others, not just for my personal comfort and pleasure. When I sacrifice and limit my freedom for the sake of others, I am giving a small sample of the immeasurable sacrifice of Christ who humbled Himself in obedience for the benefit of many when He came and died on a cross. He was free to do otherwise, but chose to come and willingly surrender His liberty and rights for our sake in God’s plan. Is it such a small thing if we give up drinking something? Eating something? Playing a certain song or music type in church? A certain style of dress? None of those things are more valuable than our brother or sister in Christ and none of those things are a greater sacrifice than the one Jesus made for us. Let us love in such a way as to build each other up.