Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:
“As I live, says the LORD,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
The Eight Commandment says, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Martin Luther, in his explanation to this commandment says, “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.” Paul says in Galatians 5, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And Jesus, when was asked by the Pharisees about His disciples’ eating habits, said, “Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” And, as Mark tells, Jesus in that moment, “Declared all foods clean.”
All these things have bearing on our reading from Romans 14. This is all about how we love our neighbor. We can’t read our neighbors motives. It’s just impossible. So Luther says, “explain everything in the kindest way.” Whatever our neighbor says or does should first pass this test. Once this happens we’ll speak well of him and defend him and thus we won’t tell lies about him, betray, slander, or hurt his reputation. If this doesn’t happen, we’re in danger of even destroying the faith of our neighbor, and Jesus has some very stern and dire words about that! “Millstone, neck, sea for you, if you do that,” says Jesus.
This is import for us to keep in mind when we read Romans 14. Pauls dealing with the saints in Rome. In the markets there, as in Corinth, there would be meat for sale that had been sacrificed to idols. An idol is nothing, and all foods are clean. Therefore, the Christian is free to eat of such meat. In his freedom that Christian eats. He won’t be taken into the realm of superstition. But there may be another Christian, as Paul puts it in Romans 14:1, who, “is weak in the faith,” and he can’t eat such food without burdening his conscience, and risking his faith. So he eats only vegetables. Now, there were also some who observed one day over another—probably with fasting—and there were those who made no distinction of such days.
But what happened in Rome? Those with “strong faith,” those who could eat anything, looked down on the others, and those with “weak faith,” those who wouldn’t and couldn’t eat, tore down and condemned the others. But Paul says, “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.” We are to build one another up in the body of Christ. What’s more is that Paul says, “He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.”
But we’re always seeking to measure ourselves against others. It may not manifest itself in way of food today, but we get “I’ve done this up at the church, where were you?” “I’m on this board.” “This is why I don’t join the boards because of people who think they run this place.” “I went on this mission trip.” Or whatever else we come up with. It doesn’t really matter. Paul says, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” We’re to live for our neighbor, and die for him. This doesn’t just mean die physically—lay down our life for him or her—, but we’re to die to self—our wants and desires. This is a tall order. We certainly end up making a mess of things. But “if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
We truly have already died and risen. We’ve been baptized into Christ, who died and was raised. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I live now I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” That’s our hope. He’s the one who’s washed away all the measuring we do. He’s broken the ruler. Why pick it up again? If we lived in Paul’s day, we might see our neighbor eating vegetables, “He must not be able to afford meat, and I won’t rub it in his face. Christ died for him.” We might see her observing one day over another, “Well, today is just like any other day, but her schedule might only make it so she can observe only today and tomorrow.”
As Paul says, “To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” God has made us stand in His Son, in His death and resurrection, and we will stand now and forever. Thanks be to God! INI + AMEN.
Love in Christ is Strong and Living (LSB 706)
O Lord, keep Your Church with Your perpetual mercy; and because of our frailty we cannot but fall, keep us ever by Your help from all things hurtful and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.