Romans 14:1-12 (NRSV)
Chapter 14Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Verse 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Verse 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Verse 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Verse 5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Verse 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. Verse 7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. Verse 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. Verse 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Verse 10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Verse 11For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." Verse 12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
The Apostle Paul had earlier written to the Christians of Galatia that in Christ we have been freed from the bonds of the law and the curse of the law. (Gal 3:24). Now he tells the Romans this does not mean that we are free to follow our every whim and desire, but rather as servants of Christ, our purpose is to live with a deep sense of gratitude and to serve others with love and care. Martin Luther put it this way in his treatise on Christian freedom: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all” (The Freedom of the Christian,” 1520). We can certainly bask in the freedom that has been made possible for us by Christ but not flaunt it if doing so may offend other Christians who are struggling to discern appropriate behavior that they believe brings glory to Christ.
Spirit of Christ, guide and empower us to be loving servants rather than spiritual show-offs. Amen.