Romans 14:1-3. As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
Romans 1-11 is all about God’s love for us. He justified us by grace through faith and has placed his love in us by the Spirit.
Romans 12-16 is all about our love for each other. We have the indwelling life of Christ, we have died and been raised with him. We have his Spirit whose fruit is love. We must “love one another with Christ’s genuine love” (12:9), including our enemies (12:14-21), and our neighbors (13:8-10). Why? Because Jesus is coming back and our love for each other today will become his glory and our glory in eternity (13:11-14).
Now, in chapter 14, Paul is merging two of the biggest truths of our union with Christ: love and liberty. In Christ we have been given true unconditional love. Also in Christ we have been given true liberty. But how do love and liberty co-exist? Here’s the most important thing to remember:
Our liberty in Christ is always bounded by Christ’s love in us.
Nebula’s freedom to hate her sister Gamora is bounded by her love for her sister. Deep stuff. Skip to 3:30 for the drama.
As we saw yesterday, Christ doesn’t turn every Christian into a puppet, a clone, or a mass produced robot. Each of us is growing by God’s grace, and each of us is growing by our faith in that grace. But each of us is also growing within our own ever growing convictions and scruples. Yes, you are free to live within those convictions and scruples. You are free to eat anything or not eat anything. But, more importantly, you are free to love.
The Weak and the Strong in a church can seem so different and so far apart. But here’s the whole point – because both Weak and Strong are in Christ, both need to welcome each other, accept each other, and pursue peace with each other. They need to love each other.
This is the gospel. Union with Christ proves that God has welcomed us. Union with Christ means that we are accepted based on what Christ has done, not on the basis of what we do or don’t do. Eat or don’t eat. Drink or don’t drink. Celebrate or don’t celebrate. Sing or don’t sing. Wear or don’t wear. Watch or don’t watch.
And so the Strong must not despise the Weak in faith and rather must welcome the Weak.
And the Weak must not pass judgment on the one who eats (the Strong).
Romans 14:7-9. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Our mundane arguing over opinions, traditions, and preferences is overruled by the Lordship of Christ. Christ didn’t live and die so that we would be divided by these non-essential arguments. He lived and died to unify us in his life and love. Yes, he lived and died to free us. But he lived and died to free us to love.
Galatians 5:13. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
This is what “To live is Christ” means for us in the trenches of the church: We are free – we don’t have to all be the same person. But we are bounded by love – we find true freedom in loving one another, even though we are so different. This is the power of the gospel in us. The power to welcome one another and not judge one another. The power to love.