Growing up as a Christian, and even now as a grown up one(??), I am often been expected to be judgemental. From my friends expecting me to wince every time they talk about sex through to acquaintances assuming I’m homophobic, it seems that Christians are meant to be the “judge-y ones”. Yet this is the exact opposite to the advice I find in the Bible.
“Therefore let us not pass judgement on one another any longer but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother… The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.”
Romans 14 v13 and 22a, ESV
Now, I don’t know about you but the people I have judged the most harshly are fellow Christians. It is also Christians who have made me feel the most judged. Frankly, that’s a lot of judging for just 25 years of life! Yet these verses call us to do the exact opposite. Instead of judgement, we are to remove obstacles that could hinder someone’s faith. Instead of forcing our faith on our friends, we are to maintain it as a personal relationship with God. Focusing on these elements effectively removes the opportunity for us to judge others about their faith.
The other part of this passage is that the judgement Paul is calling us to not make is not “religious”. It is not about prayer life or bible study. Even church (or temple) attendance is not mentioned! Instead, Paul tells the Romans not to judge each other for the type of food they eat.
Okay, a little historical context. When Paul wrote this letter, food was part of the religious practices of the time. It could be sacrificed and then served up as part of a meal. This gave some Christians concern over whether or not they could eat food sacrificed to idols. Was it okay to eat food that had been sacrificed as a form of idolatry? Or was it just food and totally fine to eat?
It’s not just about who will. It’s also about who won’t.
This passage isn’t about not judging the people who do eat sacrificed food. It’s quite the opposite.
“Do not for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.”
Romans 14 v20, ESV
Basically Paul is telling those Christians who are fine eating and drinking with non-Christians to stop forcing those are not comfortable with it to join in. To stop judging other believers for what they are uncomfortable doing. Today that isn’t just about food but it’s a good place to start…
Say, you have a friend who has made the choice to eat vegan or follow a paleo lifestyle. You’ve made it very clear that you don’t want their judgements for the choices you make about food. But have you considered your own words and actions in regards to your friend’s choices? That maybe by refusing to accommodate your friend’s new decision, you are actually judging them for choices they and you have both made.
This can be applied to other areas of life too. You might have made the choice to sleep with your boyfriend. Or maybe you enjoy a drink or two on the weekends. It can be easy to believe that the rest of the Christian world is judging you for doing something that is controversial at best. But what is your reaction to those who choose not to do these things? Do you judge them for what they choose not to do? Why do you judge them?
The reality is that we tend to judge people because they make us uncomfortable. Those of us who are “goody-two-shoes” often judge those we see as “breaking the rules”* because secretly we want to break the rules too. Yet how many of us have also judged the “goody-two-shoes” because we cannot bring ourselves to admit we admire them. Whether it is their ability to eat super ,sometimes beyond, healthy food or their daily hour long devotional, it is so easy to judge those who do better than us. That judgement can so quickly lead to us dragging down those who are achieving what we aspire to.
Paul reminds us that the Kingdom of God is meant to be built on “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. Nowhere are we told that food or sex or clothes are the foundation of the Kingdom of God. Doesn’t seem like there is a lot of room in there for judging each other based on what we do or don’t do.
So why waste energy judging when you could be building God’s Kingdom through joy and peace?
“Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgement on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
Romans 14 v22-23, ESV
You may choose to refrain from doing something in order to honour God. Or you might decide that honouring God does not require such restrictions. Whichever is your choice, do not judge someone else for the choice they have made. Their relationship with God is their business. Just as your relationship with God is between you and Him.
The post Biblical Inspiration: Romans 14 v 13-23 first appeared on CounterCultural. CounterCouture.
*FYI: Christianity isn’t about rules!