Does Your Menu Matter?
Romans 14 has basically one topic and it is expressed in a common problem for the first century Christian. Though we don’t really have this specific problem today, the principle is still valid and one worth considering. In the ancient world, animals were used to sacrifice to gods. Though God’s people stopped doing this after the time of Christ, other religions still did it. The problem for the Christian is that some followers of Jesus thought it was OK to eat the meat that had been offered to an idol and others did not. The meat might end up in the local butcher shop and perhaps even be on sale! Should a Christian eat that meat or not? This problem is also addressed in the book of 1 Corinthians. In the passage in Corinthians Paul makes it very clear that eating the meat offered to idols is OK…it’s just meat. If you don’t attach any religious significance to it, then it has no religious significance. But Paul discusses in Corinthians and here in Romans that we have something else to consider…we have our brother to consider. If our brother thinks it is sinful to eat the meat offered to idols, how do we handle that? Should we eat the meat anyway? Should we not eat the meat so we don’t offend our brother? How far do we take this? Again, we don’t have the eating meat issue at the forefront but other issues in our world are prevalent. We disagree over TV/movies, sports on Sunday, how people should dress, priority of social issues in the church, and many other issues. We disagree as to how important some of these things are and how we are to live our lives in tension with those who don’t feel the same way we do.
Paul talks about “love” being the overriding issue, both here in Romans 14 and in 1 Corinthians. Out of love we are compelled to do this. But it gets pretty sticky when we try to do this. Let me set up a silly example. If you think it is wrong to eat liver, but I like liver, what should I do? Should I deprive myself of eating liver because I know it offends you? I think we would all agree that I shouldn’t invite you to dinner and serve liver. Or, if we go out to dinner together I should refrain from ordering liver. But what about eating liver in the privacy of my own home? Obviously, eating liver isn’t a big issue but other issues are more significant. It’s not always as easy as simply saying that if it offends my brother I won’t do it. Near the end of the chapter Paul writes this: 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. This is always good advice. We can disagree but still attempt to have peace and edification with one another. If we do that, even our disagreements should be handled in a way that doesn’t cause significant division or strife. Oh, by the way, please don’t invite me to your house for liver!