To Judge or Not To Judge, That Is The Question
Pastor Steve Ellison
Romans 14 establishes that within the church there are people who are strong and people who are weak. It seems that many of us regard those who cling to traditions as the strong, but that is not how the Holy Spirit describes the situation. Romans 14 says that those who embrace their liberty and freedom in Christ are the strong. However, the issue is that both groups consider themselves to be strong and both groups have the same problem. Each group has taken their eyes off Christ and has begun to be unloving toward the other group.
The fact that each group thinks it is the strong group makes the advice (commands) in Romans 13:1-13 so very effective. Our churches would drastically and dramatically change if we would only heed these words of wisdom. Verse one tells us plainly to accept the weak. Now of course that command has to be addressed to me. It can’t be addressed to the one I am in conflict with because I must be the strong one, right? Verse one demands that I not pass judgment on the weak person’s opinions.
Verse three illustrates this command with a very pertinent example that every person in that time would have been familiar with. You and I might need a little refresher on the issue. Christians were struggling with whether or not to eat meat that might have been sacrificed to idols. In the pagan sacrifices, the meat was not always destroyed. Often that meat was simply offered to the idol and then sold on the open market. Thus some Christians were not comfortable with eating meat because they did not know if it had been offered to some pagan idol or not. Most of us do not face this issue, but we face others just like it. There are many things that are not morally wrong that we as individuals are not comfortable with because of our background, our culture, our training, our personal preferences, etc. and etc. The Holy Spirit’s point is very simple. We are not to pass judgment on others. Verse three closes with a very pointed declaration which is given as the reason why we should not judge the weak: “God has accepted him”. If our hearts are right before God, He accepts us.
Verse four asks a very probing question: “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” The obvious and expected answer is that I am not the one to judge because the weak church member is not my servant. The weak church member is the servant of the Lord. It is not my business to judge the servants of God. The rest of the world will not recognize Christ as Lord because of how well I can impose my opinions or doctrine on the other church members. Rather the world will know Christ as Lord because of the love I have for other church members.
In case you and I did not catch the first illustration, the Holy Spirit offers up a second example in verses five and six. Verses seven through thirteen comprise a warning that flows from the illustration. It is a repeat of the warning in verses three and four. It is wise to pay attention when God repeats Himself. Please allow me to draw your attention to verses 12 and 13. Each and every one of us will give an account to God. This accounting is not referring to the weak who would have to explain their embracing of freedom. Rather this accounting will be given by those who think they are the strong. According to verse thirteen the accounting will be regarding stumbling blocks put in a brother’s way. That is a thing to be avoided.