Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Rom. 14:13 NIV2011)
For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died. (v. 15 HCSB)
For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself… (v. 7 NASB)
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (v. 23 ESV)
I mentioned a few weeks ago that there are quite a few “topics worth the tussle” in the later chapters of Romans – the portions that more theologically minded collegians might wrongly consider “more shallow.” But I wanted to return again to one chapter – chapter 14 – which I believe has some of the biggest potential for impacting our students of any chapter in the Bible.
So whether you teach on Romans 14 or just use it to evaluate your ministry, I do encourage you to consider how well your college ministry’s members (and you yourself!) live out this chapter. Its demands are difficult and even surprising, but Paul here also makes it very clear that he saw this as rather central to BOTH glorifying God and living in Christian community… and those are probably our top two priorities for our college ministries, right?
Three little notes to get you started on Romans 14:
1. Walk slowly through this passage. If you only observe the overarching theme (Dealing with Disputable Matters) through a normal skimming, you’ll miss the profundity of many of the individual commands and comments. By paying close attention, too, you quickly realize that “faith” here means “conviction” or “confidence” more than general “trust in God” – a key to understanding the whole chapter.
2. Compare with Corinthians. I Corinthians 8 and 10 parallel this far too closely to be ignored, and they even provide more concrete examples.
2. Recognize the many applications. On that note, I count at least five applications that can turn our lives (and our students’ lives) upside-down. (One verse for each appears above, although there are several for each scattered throughout Romans 14.)
- Handling disputable matters well. This is the main topic, obviously, but what Paul writes isn’t “obvious” at all. Read it in concert with I Corinthians 8 and 10, and Paul’s awkward demands become impossible to deny.
- Love bends over backwards. If this is love, it’s a much more dramatic version than we usually see. This isn’t just noble sacrifice but – in a sense – ignoble sacrifice.
- We’re supposed to strive to please people(!). Most vividly, this is prescribed in Romans 14:18-19 and the first two verses of chapter 15 (there weren’t chapters in the original, remember!). Of course, this isn’t an unqualified command…
- “Do all for the glory of God.” It’s no coincidence that I Cor. 10:31 and Rom. 14:7-12 both occur in discussions of how we eat. If we’re supposed to glorify God in everything, then that means glorifying Him in the necessary, the daily, the very very normal.
- All actions from conviction. Romans 14 knows nothing of “I can do it unless God shows me it’s wrong.” Perhaps the most counter-Christian-cultural application of all comes when we realize that Romans 14 actually demands the opposite – even down to the final verse.