Read This Week: Romans 14
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. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. – Romans 14:13, 17-18 NIV
Relationships can be messy sometimes. As we do life and interact with each other, particularly around subjects of disagreement and controversy, intentions, comments, and words can be easily misinterpreted. Things can get misconstrued and dicey, especially online when we can’t physically see each other in a conversation or detect tone and intent.
While we’re not ultimately responsible for how someone receives and reacts to us, we can be mindful of how we judge them, speak, and take nothing for granted about their relational experiences, or what could be going on in their life. This thoughtful and Spirit-driven approach will allow us to not get in the way of another’s spiritual growth or hinder their relationship with God by our treatment of them.
In the latter half of Romans, Paul talks a lot about how Christians should give themselves wholly to God, and this commitment should be evident in relationships and the interaction between people inside and outside of the Church. This devotion and love for others should also be apparent to those with whom we disagree on disputable matters. He sets the tone in verse 1 of chapter 14: Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
It is clear from this passage that some relational problems were arising between the Jews and Gentiles around peripheral issues like food laws and special days. But Paul wants them to experience Christian love, especially those who are weaker in the faith. He makes it plain that no one should hinder another with their thoughts and actions regarding personal preference.
The passing of judgment and mistreatment of another over things that don’t ultimately matter or impact the gospel can get in the way of a person’s true worship and spiritual development. It can also prevent God’s family from living in harmony with one another. The Scriptures teach us here that none of us are better than any other believer; we are all saved by God’s grace and have been welcomed into His family through mercy and love. We cannot look down on our brothers and sisters and create obstacles to their faith. Verse 13 says:
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.
The “stumbling block” in this chapter is interpreted as spiritual destruction and we should all avoid being the cause of that in anyone’s life. Disputable matters, even if we may be right on them, should not take precedent over love and encouragement to seek the truth. We should focus on guiding and building others up for the kingdom and staying out of the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in their lives. Paul says in verse 17:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
When we make the eternal purposes of God our priority rather than arguing over minor disputes, we will express God’s righteousness, peace, and joy that transforms lives and relationships. Compared with this, our minor differences of opinion become irrelevant and of little consequence. We instead please God and do His will as a community. And when we please God, we don’t get in the way. Those around us are blessed, encouraged, built up, and their path to truly serving the Lord is not blocked by unnecessary obstacles.