Romans 14:13-23 – No Stumbling

Read Romans 14:13-23

So many nuggets in today’s reading. Was there one, in particular, that spoke to you? Feel free to share in the comments. What came to mind to me was the idea of entitlement. When you look around you see people’s attitudes being shaped by what they believe they want or are entitled to have. The cries for social justice and equality are heard daily. I’m not saying those are bad things in and of themselves, but when they cause us to stumble or trip someone else up, we need to be careful.

The example Paul gives here involves food and drink. As long as I have known David, he is careful to never accept an alcoholic beverage when in the company of an alcoholic. These verses seem to be the inspiration for his behavior. When we were in recovery ministry, we would hear time and again how difficult it was to be in a bar setting, for example, when trying to stay alcohol-free. It is clear in this passage we should be careful in our own behaviors so that others don’t stumble.

I like Paul’s words here, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The test of whether we are behaving as Christians is whether we are honoring God. Simple as that. To tear down or tempt or upset another human being “on purpose” is certainly not God-honoring behavior.

When we strive for harmony in the church or in our relationships, that is honoring to God. Unfortunately, we can only control ourselves, and harmony and unity require everyone to be on board. One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch of apples. When we act to please God, it benefits other humans, too. If everyone were to read this passage and heed its wisdom, there would be a lot more unity in the world.

You may be thinking about how all this good behavior will really limit your freedom. As Christians, don’t we want to please God above all else? Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with what seems to be a lot of expectations. I guess I should say, “go with your gut.” As Paul says, “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.” As Christians, we should be in the business of building each other up and not tearing them down with behaviors that will be offensive. Ask, “what would Jesus do?”

Let’s pray. Lord, there are so many opportunities for us to build each other up and yet sometimes we unknowingly tear apart your good work. Help us to have eyes to see and wisdom to discern when our behaviors need some adjustments. Thank you for giving us such a fine example of servant leadership. Help me as I continue to work on my own shortcomings. Thank you for these words. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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