The Danger of Criticism
14 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
10 So why do you condemn another believer[a]? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.[b]’”
12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer 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. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.[c] 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
Let me share a part of a story I read to help illustrate this chapter.
A lovely family is converted to Christ from a seventh-day sect, with which they were affiliated for a number of years, and in which they were more than superficially involved. They are honest, dedicated students of the Holy Scriptures, and they soon learn that the Law of Moses, with its Sabbath obligations, is not in force today. They are convinced of such and are able to argue that case admirably.
They have a couple of problems, however. They simply cannot feel comfortable about doing yard work on Saturday; out of long habit, they prefer to reserve the day for Bible study or other primarily spiritual activities. Should they be ridiculed if they so choose? If they prefer not to attend a ballgame or some other recreational pursuit on the seventh day of the week, should not they be loved and respected?
And what if it is the case that they cannot in good conscience, at a church potluck, partake of some sister’s baked ham, or of a sportsman’s platter of fried catfish? Cannot their long-time dietary habits be regarded with honor, rather than someone suggesting how “silly” such abstinence is?
What Paul is proposing as a “weak” brother is simply a lack of faith due to lesser understanding of the Word of God. They may not eat certain meat because they simply don’t know what the Word actually says about it, or like in the story, it’s been habit for so long, it’s just not comfortable yet. We are all at different levels in our faith walk, and we were the “weak” brother at one time. We are not to judge, that’s not our job. Paul is encouraging unity among the believers. Remember, there were many different cultures hearing the Gospel message, and each had to overcome their own unique cultural practises.
These days everything seems to relate to the virus pandemic, and this is no exception. Everyone you meet is on a different level and of a different opinion about how we should be reacting and how we should be isolating. Some of us live in a lot of fear and do not leave our homes, while others stick to the minimum requirements just to appease the law. We wrestle with our “lack of faith” by staying away from others while feeling guilty because God can protect them, while others are not careful because they have faith God will protect them, and thereby potentially put others at risk. Should we as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ ridicule and shame each other for how we respond to this? Absolutely not. We need to support and love each other, pray for each other and encourage each other as much as possible with tremendous respect for each others personal view on the situation.
God you are so good. Help us today to search our own heart and reveal to us where we have been judgemental of our “weaker” brothers and sisters. Help us to be encouragers and supporters, help us to be unified in our different opinions and levels of understanding your Word. We thank you for this amazing day, in Jesus name, amen.