Today’s Scripture Readings: Psalms 80:8-19 | 2 Chronicles 29:1-36 | Romans 14:1-23 | Proverbs 20:12
Today’s Scripture Focus: Romans 14:1-23
“If you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib, if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables and thank God for broccoli.” (Romans 14:6 The Message)
I met a man in India whose first words after baptism were, “Does this mean I now have to eat beef?” The thought was utterly repulsive to him. Years of believing that eating beef was a sinful act—perhaps the most sinful act in his system of belief—meant that this young believer had a very sensitive conscience and many scruples when it came to his diet. It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of believer Paul has in mind in the text. If you were to invite him into your home, I’d suggest you serve broccoli (or better yet: lentil soup).
Our freedom in Christ may lead to differing convictions on some issues. These should not be a source of disunity in the body of Christ. Flaunting our freedom before someone with differing convictions would also be wrong. For the sake of the other believer, keep your conviction to yourself. When your weaker brother leaves you can serve the meat, “and thank God for prime rib,” but don’t violate his conscience and don’t put a stumbling block in his way.
When it comes to sharing the gospel, we also often raise barriers that become stumbling blocks. Don’t invite your Hindu seeker friend to a steak dinner. That would be very insensitive—a stumbling block to faith. There are some people groups that need to see that Christianity can be vegetarian. The scruples raised by non-vegetarian diets might keep them from ever seriously considering the Christian faith. Whether you eat or don’t eat meat need not be an issue for us, but it could be a stumbling block to them ever really hearing the gospel.
Those who are more mature in Christ, must not use their freedom unwisely—it can be misunderstood and cause another to stumble. Nor should they become “professional weaker brothers.” P.W.B.’s are those who have been around a while, but never seem to grow up—those who are easily offended. Self-centered and always wanting their way, they impose their “convictions” on everyone else and judge those who don’t live up to their personal list of taboos. They need to grow up. They cause disunity in the body of Christ and place stumbling blocks in the way of those who are legitimately younger and weaker in their faith.
Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase sums the passage up well:
“Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent, but if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose you opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.” (Romans 14:22-23, The Message)
As for me, I’m thanking God for both prime rib and broccoli, but not in front of my broccoli-loving friends.