Summary: In the second half of Romans 14, Paul challenges the Christians at Rome to not put any stumbling blocks in front of other believers, but to do only what leads to building others up.
A. The story is told of a rabbi was at odds with his congregation.
1. The president of the synagogue said, “Rabbi, we must have a conference to settle this dispute once and for all.”
2. So the rabbi, the president and the ten elders met together to discuss the issue, but the rabbi soon discovered that he was the sole dissenting opinion.
3. After some discussion, the president of the synagogue announced, “Let’s take a vote and let the majority rule.”
4. When the votes were collected, the president said, “Rabbi, you are outvoted eleven to one, we have the majority.”
5. The rabbi rose to his feet, “So you think you are right and I am wrong because of a vote. Well, think again, for I will call on the Holy One of Israel to give us a sign that I am right and you are wrong.”
6. Immediately, a deafening clap of thunder sounded, accompanied by a brilliant flash and the mahogany table they were gathered around was cracked in two.
7. The room was filled with smoke and the president and the elders were thrown to the floor, but the rabbi remained standing untouched and triumphant.
8. The president synagogue slowly rose from underneath the table; his hair was singed, his glasses where hanging from one ear and his clothes were in great disarray
9. The synagogue president got himself in order and announced, “Alright, alright, so the vote is now eleven to two, but we still have the majority!”
B. Life is fraught with disagreements and conflicts.
1. Just as we talked about last week, some things in life are black and white; clearly right or wrong, but there are also many things that fall into the grey area.
2. How are Christians supposed to make decisions about things that fall into the grey area?
3. Thankfully, the Bible gives us some guidance and Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the inspired writings of the Bible that helps us the most.
4. Last week, as we studied Romans 14:1-12, we saw how that Paul challenged the Roman Christians to approach their disagreements with the following principles.
a. First, the strong, who felt they had the freedom to do certain things, must not look down on or despise those who feel they don’t have the freedom to do it..
b. Second, the weak, who felt they did not have the freedom to do certain things, must not judge or condemn those who feel they have the freedom to do it.
c. Third, each person should be fully convinced in their own mind, and should do what they believe will please their own heavenly master.
d. Fourth and finally, all of us should let God be the judge, it is not our job to judge God’s other servants.
C. Today, as we move into the second half of Romans 14, we will see that Paul offers another principle that will guide us as we navigate disagreements over disputable matters.
1. Last week I introduced you to a dilemma that a preacher I read about faced concerning that private club membership at a hotel that one of his members had bought him.
a. The membership entitled him to the use of the pool and dining room that had great meals at low cost to members.
b. You will recall that the dilemma involved the fact that in the evenings, that dining room became a “gentlemen’s club” featuring nearly nude female dancers.
c. We took a vote among ourselves and were divided about whether that preacher should use his membership during the day, but not at night.
2. I told you he used it only once, because he had the right to based on the spiritual principles in Rom.14:1-12, but didn’t use it again because of another spiritual principle in Rom. 14:13-23.
3. Let me share that preacher’s story in his own words: “There we were, my guest and I, enjoying our lunch at my private club at a local hotel to which I had been given a membership by someone in my church. The man across the table was a preacher from a neighboring town whom I had been encouraged to befriend. So I invited him for lunch and we were sitting by the window overlooking the beautiful swimming pool. I was telling him about the friend from my church who had bought me a membership to this place. And I told him about the privileges that were mine as a member, including the use of the pool. He looked rather shocked and said, ‘Do you believe in mixed bathing?’ ‘No,’ I replied with a smile on my face, ‘but I don't have any problem with mixed swimming.’ I thought it was pretty funny, but he never cracked a smile.