February 27 I Tuesday
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters.”—Romans 14:1
There are certain doctrines that are non-negotiable to be considered a Christian. For example, the deity and work of Jesus Christ, the existence of moral absolutes and the inspiration and final authority of Scripture are essential doctrines of the Christian faith. There are other issues such as cultural preferences or denominational understandings, which Scripture does not provide absolute instruction on. This is often where arguments, hurt feelings and church divisions arise between believers.
Paul gives two examples of this in Romans. There were some believers who had no problem eating meat, while others believed Christians should be vegetarians. Some believers treated one day as more sacred than the others, while others considered every day alike. These issues divided the Roman church since there was no agreement over which position was right or wrong. But if the first-century believers hoped Paul would settle these disagreements in favour of one belief over another, they would have been disappointed.
Rather than affirming one side over the other, Paul urged the believers of both mindsets to hold firmly to their convictions. Specifically of the vegetarian issue, he writes, “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them” (Romans 14:3). Eating meat and upholding sacred days are not “make-or-break” issues for Christianity. There are no rights or wrongs here.
Paul admits he had no problem eating meat, but he would not disown or condemn his Christian brothers or sisters who thought differently. Paul would have been legalistic if he had. Legalism believes that in obeying the rules we will please God, but that is an incorrect understanding of the Gospel. It is the depth of our intimacy with God that will please Him. Legalism also tends to make us judgmental about those who believe or behave differently than we do. We are right to stand for truth and morality, but we go too far when we demand others accept our thoughts on non-fundamental aspects of our faith. This turns our thinking into rules, but no matter how wise the rule or how good our intentions, such impositions will serve as a stumbling block to the spiritual growth of others.
Doctrine is important, but we must be careful not to confuse our preferences with truth. God accepts those who think differently, and so should we. This is the beautiful part of belonging to a worldwide community of believers, consisting of different denominations and cultures. We are blessed with the freedom to think for ourselves, to prayerfully consider Scripture’s teachings and to worship and serve God as our conscience dictates.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me if I have forced my opinions on others about non-essential things. Help me to always respect others and to grow an accepting disposition in me. Thank You, Lord.