Skip to content

9. Do not enrage your neighbor for unimportant reasons
(Romans 14:13-23)
13Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.14I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.15Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.16Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;17for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.19Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.21It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.22Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.23But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.

Through his ministry in several churches, Paul knew the continuous, obstinate differences with respect to permissible and prohibited foods. He said, referring to the statement of Jesus (Mark 7:15-23; Luke 6:4), that nothing is unclean in itself, but the things which come out of man defile him. It is good for the believer to eat certain foods which are good for him. It is also good for him to abstain from other foods, which he deems harmful to his health.
Christians must be good examples to others. They must avoid everything which may be a reason for another’s sin. The believer, who eats and drinks without limits, and boasts of his freedom, creates doubts in the heart of him who is deliberate, and also feels that the first despises him. Then he who is free becomes wrong and responsible for confusing the fresh believer, and moving his faith in Christ. Love requires from him who is strong in faith not to boast before him who is weak in his opinion and choice, but to keep silent, that he may not become a stumbling block before the new convert.
Paul testified that the kingdom of God is not confirmed through food and drink, but it appears through the fruits of the Holy Spirit, out of which he named righteousness, peace, and joy, as an answer to the differences in churches. Paul craved after the consolidation of the unity of the church, and he led the believers to the fact that the subject of food and drink does not deserve that the church should differ about it. The unity of the spirit is much more important than the mutual agreement on secondary subjects like food, drink, dress, how hair should be cut, or how money should be spent; for the Spirit of Christ, in his love and longsuffering patience, prevails over the necessities of the earthly life. Paul testified the necessity of binding ourselves to love, as a foundation for the knowledge of Christ, through rising above insignificant matters, and taking interest in man for whom Jesus died.
The peace of God in church is more important than the absolute freedom, and the requirements of the law. If anyone in the church does not eat meat, or drink wine to please his conscience, or because of his own principles or deterrents, then it is necessary for us to behave in conformity with love without complaint, feeling the needs of the other whose faith might stumble because of our behaviors.
However, the new believer who eats and drinks with qualms of conscience is wrong together with all the people of his church, because the assurance in faith is more important than superficial peace. The faith realized in love prevails over the cooperation in church; and he who wants to carry out his obstinacy unconditionally is a destroyer of the spirit of partnership.

O Lord Jesus, we worship you because you accepted in the circle of your disciples rough fishermen, cunning tax collectors, experts in the Law, and mystics. You gathered them together, united them, and gave them no other commandment but perfect love with forgiveness, patience, and peace. Help us to forgive others not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven a day, and not to forget that they also have to forgive us our faults and sins up to seventy times seven a day.
What is the meaning of the verse: “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17)?