Navigating Personal Opinions: Romans 14:1-4
“1) Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2) One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3) The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4)Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans‬ ‭14:1-4‬
Paul now tackles a subject that can divide churches and leave Christians needlessly at odds with one another. This relates to the whole subject of personal opinions, convictions and preferences not associated with essential Biblical doctrines.
Paul starts by talking about “the one who is weak in faith.” These might be newer believers who are not biblically grounded. The goal is to build up and edify and not to tear down or pass judgement.
The example he uses both here and in 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 is diet. Many Christians in his day adopted a vegetarian diet because much of the meat available in the marked place had been sacrificed to idols or not killed in a kosher manner or eaten raw. Keep in mind, Paul was living in the regions of Rome and Greece. The food was very different from his Jewish heritage.
But for the sake of the gospel, Paul decided to become all things to all people. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) It doesn’t take long in missions work to discover how radically different foods, spices and diets are in different regions around the world.
People enjoy serving their local foods just to watch your reaction. For the sake of the gospel, I have eaten all kinds of ethnic foods. In many cases over time I have developed a taste for them. I will spare you the list of things I have eaten. When my taste buds protest violently, vegetables are always there to rescue me. It’s hard to ruin a carrot.
As a side note, I’ve learned it only takes three or four mission trips to the same region to develop a taste for ethnic foods. For some reason, eating a local ethnic diet creates an amazing bond with people that can transcend a language barrier. It can open a door for the gospel. This is a very significant observation.
The problem comes when people make things like a diet a test of spirituality. The same holds true for keeping various holidays, political opinions or even loyalty to a sports team.
If you want to refrain from celebrating Christmas or Easter, that’s totally fine with me. I understand your objections. But I choose to use them as a bridge for the gospel. When a secular holiday points to the birth or resurrection of Jesus Christ, I’m running through that open door as fast as I can.
Here is a big clue! If you haven’t figured it out yet; good Christians will often have different convictions from one another. Some have no problem drinking wine, while others abstain from alcohol completely. This battle field is not my calling!
Many godly old saints refused to go to a movie theater until The Passion of the Christ was released. God has sent some very gifted Christians into the movie industry to produce wholesome movies and some movies with an amazing gospel message. I thank God for them.
As you can imagine, this is a very delicate subject because some convictions can be sinful. This is where spiritual growth, discernment and a commitment to discipleship steps up to the plate. For Paul, the goal was building up and not tearing down. Adopt the approach of compassionate encouragement rather than harsh judgement as your mode of operation.
The important thing is to keep the important things the important thing. Focus on the great commission. Build bridges and point people to Jesus. Then in some cases… learn to celebrate your differences.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global