Having been in a few different Christian traditions over the course of my life, I am amazed how strongly traditions cling to certain practices to the point of disparaging other traditions that do not have those same practices. In Romans, Paul tries to delicately navigate between Jewish believers and Gentile believers and the one, new community they have created in Christ in that city. Jewish believers still keep the kosher food laws and the Gentiles do not keep them (among other differences). Then Paul gets to this passage:
Welcome the person who is weak in faith—but not in order to argue about differences of opinion. One person believes in eating everything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Those who eat must not look down on the ones who don’t, and the ones who don’t eat must not judge the ones who do, because God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand). One person considers some days to be more sacred than others, while another person considers all days to be the same. Each person must have their own convictions. Someone who thinks that a day is sacred, thinks that way for the Lord. Those who eat, eat for the Lord, because they thank God. And those who don’t eat, don’t eat for the Lord, and they thank the Lord too.
This is a fabulous passage for the situation today. We have traditions that have a strong practice of fasting during certain times of the year, traditions that advocate abstaining from alcohol, and traditions that have none of those practices. We have traditions that have numerous holy days throughout the year they celebrate, and we have traditions that may or may not even celebrate Easter as a special day.
What I love about this passage is that Paul does not say which side has the people who have the weaker faith. The implication is that we assume whoever has a different practice than us has the weaker faith.
You don’t celebrate all the wonderful feasts and festivals commemorating the mighty workings of God throughout history? You must have a very weak faith and understanding of God. You don’t understand that God is always at work and no day is different than any other because all days together show God’s redemption? You must have a very weak faith and understanding of God.
You don’t eat meat? You must have a very weak faith because God has called all things clean. You eat meat? You must have a very weak faith because eating meat was a concession after the flood and God intended us to be vegetarians.
You drink alcohol? You must have a weak faith because alcohol impedes the growth in grace we are to have in order to be sanctified. You don’t drink alcohol? You must have a weak faith because only drunkenness is condemned in the Bible.
Paul writes in 14:13, “So stop judging each other.” If we have certain practices such as these, and we sincerely follow them out of love for Christ, then we are fine in his eyes. And it is perfectly fine for others to have opposite practices such as these and sincerely follow them out of love for Christ. It is not our role to judge Christ’s servants. We have not been given that authority.
Let us all live in love for Christ. If we do this, then that love ought to spill over into love for each other–irrespective of our individual tradition’s expectations on issues such as these.