“And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died.” – Romans 14:15
“Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble.” – Romans 14:21
“We may know that these things make no difference, but we cannot just go ahead and do them to please ourselves. We must be considerate of the doubts and fears of those who think these things are wrong.” – Romans 15:1
I’ve always struggled with these verses. On the one hand, I resent being told how to live. The restrictions some people place on their lives might work for them but would be inconvenient in the extreme for me. I know that I have freedom in Jesus and that most of the habits people see as sinful are actually harmless. Why should I bend to serve their will? Who are they to tell me what to do?
On the other hand, love requires sacrifice and I certainly don’t want to be one of those that give people an excuse for not connecting with God. Insisting on living the way I want according to my desires is selfish. There is no greater joy than seeing those you love grow spiritually; I would hate to disrupt that just for some fleeting pleasure.
On the other-other hand, isn’t the most loving thing I can do to be an example of how others could live if only they would embrace freedom? Shouldn’t we try to raise people up rather than stoop to their level? Shouldn’t we stand in solidarity with others who also live freely and take a stand against judgmental attitudes? It seems that true love compels me to engage with people, inviting them into a better life.
One could argue that the verses only apply when we are directly in another’s presence and are not meant to apply to the privacy of our own home. The problem is that most of our life happens outside the home. If we share life with others, they are going to become familiar with our lifestyles. It is impossible for it to be otherwise. With social media especially, we post all about our meals, adventures, business operations, and meetups with our friends both Christian and non-Christian. Considering that there exist people out there somewhere against consuming pork, shellfish, beef, meat of any kind, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, gambling, reading or writing fiction about witches, working on Sunday, wearing short skirts, tattoos, and supporting the “wrong” presidential candidates and it becomes impossible to post much of anything. There are those that think capitalism is wrong and those that think communism is wrong. How are we supposed to live, then? It’s impossible to please everybody. Did Jesus die to rescue us from sin only for us to tiptoe around it the rest of our lives? I would rather be a pleaser of God than a pleaser of men (Galatians 1:10).
Jesus did not refrain from correcting others. He once told people it was not what entered a man that defiled him, but what came out of him. Another time, he basically argued it wasn’t wrong to work on the Sabbath. If Jesus argued for freedom, why can’t I? In a small way, that is what this blog is about: showing people a better way to live. I shine a spotlight on God’s creation to give him glory. This becomes hard to do when people consider some elements of his creation unworthy.
Jesus came to bring life and abundance of life. This is what I want for you. I want to see you be free and expand your world. Do you really want to miss out on reading a beautiful story of good triumphing over evil just because it mentions witchcraft? Do you want to spend the rest of your life cringing when you hear a swear word or see a woman in a bikini? Bacon is delicious. Try it. If you don’t like the taste, that’s fine. If you avoid it for health reasons, that’s fine. If you avoid it temporarily as a sort of ritual that reminds you to focus on God and this helps you connect, that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with fasting for lent. There is nothing wrong with giving God a gesture of appreciation once in a while. Worship God in a way that works best for you. Just don’t avoid it because you think it would be a sin to eat or you think abstaining will keep you in God’s favor. That plays right into sin’s hands. God already favors you.
I suspect these verses have either been misinterpreted or mistranslated.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.