Romans 14 (selected verses) 13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it. 15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning! 19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you?
It seems that today everyone has an opinion on how others should behave, often pointing the proverbial finger and as such setting their opinion as the arbitrator of what is right or what is wrong.
In Roman’s 14 the debate is about food. Under Jewish laws there were certain prohibitions as to what one could eat. Subsequently when Jewish followers of Jesus encountered Gentile followers arguments flared as the two cultures clashed. Because the Christian community consisted of both former Jews and Gentiles there were often disagreements still over certain ritualistic practices which had been carried over from Judaism.
To the Jews, the attitudes of the Gentiles seemed very lax, if not downright wrong. To the Gentiles, some Jews seemed over-scrupulous and legalistic. What Paul recommends is that each one be tolerant and understanding of the weaknesses of others and not to cause unnecessary offence.
Perhaps there is a lesson here for the 21st century social media chaos that exists today, with even people resulting to court action over the tweeted pronouncement of one party over another. It was George Washington Carver who said, “Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.”
More simply and directly, in the gospel we have Jesus answer when folk came to him and accused a women of adultery, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7
Jesus knew that there were times when many words might be spoken and times when words would not help. Perhaps we should pray for the wisdom to know when our words need to be fewer and for God's inspiration to choose the right words.
The people asked a question for which they wanted to hear only one answer. Jesus did not engage in a dialogue with them. As we come to pray, we are reminded to listen for the voice of Jesus in dialogue with us, not saying only what we want to hear.
Oh, let me feel Thee near me;
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.
Oh, let me hear Thee speaking,
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
Oh, speak to reassure me,
To hasten, or control;
Oh, speak, and make me listen,
Thou guardian of my soul. Amen