Summary: I am firmly convinced that more than a timeless letter about the gospel of Christ, Paul wrote Romans as an effort to unify a church on its way toward division. Romans 14 is the climax of that effort.
Proclaiming His Majesty
In Pursuit of Peace
The other night at worship, my son, John Austin, asked Sheryl, "Mom, why does everybody call daddy, Brother Mitchell?" As Sheryl did her best to explain to him how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and that we are all God’s children, John Austin’s brain was working. When she was through explaining he said, "Boy, God sure has a lot of children doesn’t he? But where is his wife?" Sheryl explained that God has no wife to which he replied, "You now if God had a wife I bet he could have created the earth in three days!"
John Austin’s simple yet profound observation is something we often forget; God sure has a lot of children! We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and just as a parent is proud of their children, God is just as proud of all of his.
I am firmly convinced that more than a timeless letter about the gospel of Christ, Paul wrote Romans as an effort to unify a church on its way toward division. Romans 14 is the climax of that effort.
What Paul wrote to the church at Rome during the first century is much needed for the church of the 21st Century. Too often, we are guilty of just giving lip service to brotherly love. Sure, we do a good job of caring for those outside the church who need help; we show our love and compassion without hesitation. However, when it comes to our brothers and sisters, we are often too quick to judge and too slow to forgive. Our love needs to grow as well as our understanding of God’s desire for us to be unified. Where in the bible do we read of Jesus saying that it is acceptable to fracture the fellowship of the church over the opinions of man or because "I have been a member of this congregation a lot longer than they have!"
Receive your Brother (Romans 14:1-6)
Because we are family, but more than that, God’s family, we are stuck with one another for eternity, bound as brothers and sisters. When differences arise, we have no choice but to work out those differences. We cannot leave, where can we go? We are family!
Paul uses the same idea here by admonishing us to receive the brother who is weak in faith. Why? First, he is a brother and last but certainly not least, God has accepted him. "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:3-4).
Paul, through the Holy Spirit, says that we should receive our brother, "but not to disputes over doubtful things." The NIV calls these "disputable matters." I think the NRSV translates this verse the best when it says, " Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions." To put it plainly, the weak brother should be received, opinions and all. Although the brother is received, it should be done in a way as to not make his differing opinion the rule of the congregation. Neither should he be received to pressure this brother to change his opinion. Just receive him, plain and simple.
Paul’s admonition here clearly shows that Christians can disagree on certain matters and yet still fellowship one another, more than that, are commanded to fellowship one another. Any question that arises among the brotherhood that does not violate a command of Christ is by very definition secondary and of minor importance. "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1—3).
We will all give a Reckoning of our Lives to God (Romans 14:7-18)
As brothers and sisters in Christ, we all have one common bond, sin and the need for justification. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23—24).
We live in a society where people think that they can make themselves look better by belittling those around them and unfortunately it works. However, when it comes to standing in judgment before God, we all stand alone. The danger of trying to find the wrong in someone else is evident throughout the bible. "And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye" (Luke 6:41—42).