Summary: To accept one another, we are to pass judgment on no one.

Have we ever asked ourselves, “What would attract people to our church?” In his aptly titled book, “Saints and Snobs,” Marion Jacobsen wrote, “People are hungry for acceptance, love and friends, and unless they find them in the church they may not stay there long enough to become personally related to Jesus Christ. People are not persuaded—they’re attracted. We must be able to communicate far more by what we are than by what we say.”[1] Note that one of the things that would attract people to our church is acceptance. The question now is, “Are we attractive enough?”

One way of becoming attractive to seekers is by “Accepting the Different.” We are continuing our exposition on the command in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” [2] In our acronym A-C-C-E-P-T, we saw that we are to ACCEPT one another in Christ, CONCENTRATE on the essentials and CONCEDE differences. Let us now open our Bibles to Romans 14:13-23.

Look at verse 13: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” So, let us look at “P” first, which stands for “PASS judgment on no one. Note the word “Therefore”. After saying in verse 12 that “each of us will give an account of himself to God”, Paul concluded that we are to “stop passing judgment on one another.” God has the right to judge, not us. Note also He did not say, “Let us not pass judgment.” What he wrote was, “Let us stop passing judgment.” It appears that the Roman believers were already judging one another. Thus, Paul asked them to cease and desist from judging each other. Let me clarify that “what is prohibited to the followers of Jesus is not criticism but censoriousness, ‘judging’ in the sense of ‘passing judgment on’ or condemning.”[3] We pass judgment when we think that we are better than those who look, talk, dress or live differently from us. We pass judgment when we try to “fix” people rather than accept them. We pass judgment when we make conclusions about people without even trying to get to know them.

Instead of judging, we are commanded to “make up [our] mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in [our] brother’s way.” The word “stumbling block” refers to “an obstacle in the way; when the foot strikes it the person stumbles.”[4] The word “obstacle” is “the bait stick of a trap; when an animal or bird strikes it this triggers off the mechanism that produces entrapment.”[5] We put people in harm’s way when we do things without even considering its effects on them.

Paul gave us an example in verses 14 to 15: “As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.” Note that it says, “…no food is unclean in itself.” In 1 Timothy 4:3-5, Paul wrote, “God created these foods to be eaten with thankful hearts by his followers who know the truth. Everything God created is good. And if you give thanks, you may eat anything. What God has said and your prayer will make it fit to eat.”[6]

Personally, I believe that we can eat “dinuguan.”[7] But there are some people whose conscience bothers them when they eat it for they consider it unclean, not in the sense of health issues but religious issues. Paul wrote, “then for him it is unclean.” But, the issue is not just as simple as saying, “I’ll eat what I want and you eat what you want.”

When your conscience bothers you, it is better not to eat. Verses 22 to 23 say, “Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” The Contemporary English Version translated it this way: “But if you do have doubts about what you eat, you are going against your beliefs. And you know that is wrong, because anything you do against your beliefs is sin.” So, the principle is, “When in doubt, don’t!”

We should be careful not to offend others because of our choices on trivial issues. Let us go back to verse 15: “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.” The word “distressed” refers to deep hurt or sorrow. “His sensitive conscience is deeply pained as he observes the strong brother doing what he cannot but feel is wrong. He may also be emboldened to do the thing himself, in which case the hurt is even deeper.”[8] Paul said that if we do something without considering the feelings of others, we “are no longer acting in love.” We are not to insist on our rights. We are to respect what others feel. “For love never disregard weak consciences. Love limits its own liberty out of respect for them.”[9] Maturity is withholding one’s rights for the sake of others. Thus, we are commanded in verses 15 and 16: “Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.”

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