This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.
In Romans 14, Paul wrote on the topic of what some have come to call “Christian liberty.” In short, it is the freedom that a Christian has to operate based on wisdom and conscience in areas where the Bible gives no clear direction. As a principle, we hold that if the Bible declares something good or instructs us to do something, then we should embrace that. If, however, the Bible declares something bad or instructs us to not do something, then we should avoid that.
But there are areas in life where God has chosen to not give clear direction. Examples that Paul gave include eating a variety of foods including meat vs. eating just vegetables, or considering certain days as religiously special vs. assigning equal value to all days. Paul wrote to tell us that in such matters, we should seek to live according to our conscience and not judge others if their conscience leads them in a different direction.
The unity of brothers and sisters in Christ isn’t worth sacrificing over tertiary matters.
At the end of Romans 14 and into the beginning of Romans 15, Paul addressed those who considered themselves “strong in faith.” In a way, each of us with our own views, would probably consider ourselves in this category. And if we think ourselves stronger spiritually because of how our conscience guides us, then Paul has a clear message for us:
Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength. – Romans 15:1
At the end of Romans 14, Paul wrote that we should not do anything to cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble. His point being: If we consider ourselves free to enjoy something, but another such activity goes against the conscience of another Christian, we should not flaunt our freedom nor engage in the activity around them.
With Romans 15:1, Paul places the impetus upon those who think they are stronger. Their place is not to force the weaker to see their viewpoint but to willingly sacrifice their freedom for the good of another. This does not stop us from encouraging those we see as weaker to dig more deeply into scripture and prayerfully reconsider matters of conscience. But it does show us the importance of fellowship in the Christian life.
The second greatest command, Jesus said, is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love says, “My thoughts and needs are important, but so are yours. I willfully take a step down in order to help lift you up.”
To be strong in faith, then, is to think of others more highly than we think of ourselves (which Paul also wrote about in Romans 12:10, 16; and Philippians 2:1-4).
All Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible.