Scripture: Romans 14: 13-23
Key verse: (13) “Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.”
Reflection: In the verses prior to today’s text, Paul reminds the Roman church that “each of us will be accountable to God.” Then, he writes the word, “therefore”, which becomes a bridge to a discussion about blocking another person’s way to deeper faith. We are to resolve, that is, find a way to settle a dispute or problem, instead of passing judgment. People came to Rome from all over the Empire with many religious and social practices. Most homes had a religious shrine of some kind, many where food was sacrificed to idols. This was part of daily life along with worship in the various temples of their gods. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time addressing issues related to food sacrificed to idols. Was it clean or unclean? Since Christians worshiped one God (like their Jewish brothers and sisters), those seeking to live up to their new found religion easily became judgmental of others who thought it would be just fine to eat food sacrificed to idols. For many of them, this had been a life-long practice that didn’t seem to harm anyone. Since Christ died for all and loves all, Paul warned them about harming another person because of food. So, how were Christians to behave in a pagan culture that worshiped many idols and gods? This isn’t just an ancient question, it is a contemporary one, too. Today’s text is important because it reminds us to pay attention to our choices. We are to pursue peace and sometimes that means giving up something we have no problem with, but someone else might, in order to further the gospel. Can you think of anything in your life that might be equivalent to this? Something that is putting a stumbling block in the way of another person from experiencing the love, acceptance and forgiveness of Jesus? Are we so used to having our own way that we might not notice how rigid we can be? Are we spending too much time majoring in the minors instead of addressing the most important issues of our day? Most of us don’t want to give up our way of doing things or the ways we think others should act. We need a reminder every day that the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (v. 17). We are called to live out our faith in order to build others up in the name of Christ who loves all and died for all. In this divisive and divided world we live in, I hope we will pay attention to what builds up all of us. This doesn’t mean we compromise the hope and call to justice of the gospel, but we all know what can happen when we become judgmental. Judgmentalism turns many people away from the church community and from God. Perhaps we could take Paul’s advice in the first verse of Romans 14: “Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions.”
Prayer: Merciful God, forgive us for getting in the way of your message of hope and love. Guide us in making decisions about what is right and good. Help us reflect your mercy and justice and not get caught up in disputes that distract from your work in the world. May we walk in the way of righteousness and peace as we share the gospel message of love and justice through our words and deeds. Use us to bring hope to this hurting world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].