If there is one problem within the church, it’s brothers and sisters judging each other.
Now I want to be clear, this has nothing to do with black or white issues. Paul had no problems with judging others when it came to issues that were clear cut right or wrong. You only have to look at I Corinthians 5 to see that.
But we’re talking about issues that the Bible either says nothing about or says is up to each individual Christian. And here we see two of the latter.
Among the Christians in Paul’s day, there were arguments about eating meat and vegetables. People who ate vegetables were condemning those who ate meat, perhaps because the meat had been offered to idols before being served as food at the dinner table.
Others argued about religious holidays, most probably the Jewish ones and whether Christians should continue to observe them or not. The Sabbath was probably a particular issue they faced.
The key thing here is that Paul did not consider them black and white issues. And Paul says here not to get into arguments over “disputable matters.” (1)
These were issues that were purely matters of conscience. Some Jews felt that they should continue to observe the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays. And for them, to suddenly stop observing these special days seemed dishonoring to God. The Gentiles, on the other hand, probably felt that it was a purely a Jewish tradition and had nothing to do with them.
Paul condemns neither. He said,
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. (5-6)
In other words, if you consider a day special because of your faith, then celebrate it. God will honor that. But if every day is alike to you, that’s fine too.
For those who felt bad about eating meat offered to idols, Paul said,
I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. (14)
Paul was telling the Romans, “I personally feel that even if food has been offered to idols, it’s okay to eat it. But if you feel bad about doing that, then by all means, don’t eat it.”
But then he said,
The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (3-4)
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ ” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. (10-13)
I really don’t think there’s much that needs to be added to this. It’s about as clear as you can make it. The main point is that God is our master. He is the one we have to answer to. So we have no business judging one another on things that are a matter of conscience. So let us leave judgment to God.
When I was a teenager, I was working with other teens teaching Bible clubs to kids. For the first two weeks, we went through a training camp. But in between our classes, sometimes people played cards. Now we weren’t gambling or anything, but there was one person there that was bothered by it. She had always been taught it was wrong.
Now when one of the other teens heard this, he said, “That’s so stupid!” He didn’t say it, but if he had been an adult, he probably would have said, “That’s so legalistic.”
But another guy said, “Hey, it’s how she feels. Respect that.” So we never touched cards again for the rest of camp.
We refused to judge her for her beliefs. And she, though she did say our playing bothered her, didn’t condemn us for thinking it was okay to play cards. The end result was that we kept harmony, and we were able to do great things for God that summer.
That’s what Paul is saying here. We will not always agree. But on issues where God says it’s up to us, or on issues where God says nothing at all, let us accept one another. And if we do, we will make a difference in this world for Christ.