“Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Rm 14:6-8)
Relationship With the One Whose Faith Is Weak
Is it okay for Christians to eat food that is sacrificed to idols? We might have our own opinions about this matter, but the biblical answer is both yes and no.
Paul said in 1 Co 10:25-26,
“Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”” (1Co 10:25-26)
In Paul’s time, most meat sold in the market was sacrificed to idols. So, it was hard for Christians to decide whether to eat it or not because worshiping idols is strictly prohibited in the Bible.
But, Paul said that we don’t even need to ask if the meat was sacrificed to idols because there are actually no other gods. So, even though worshiping idols is sin, there is nothing wrong with food sacrificed to idols by itself because everything on earth is created by God.
Those who know this can eat food sacrificed to idols without hesitation. There’s no wrong in it. But, if those who eat it don’t know this and think that eating food sacrificed to idols is unlawful, it becomes a sin for them not because it’s really unlawful, but because they act against their faith and conscience. So, what’s really important is not whether we do or don’t do certain things, but whether we do things with faith in God.
Paul addresses a similar problem in Romans 14. He said,
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” (Rm 14:1-2).
Here, Paul talks about Christians whose faith is weak. Paul says that their faith is weak because they are not sure of what their faith really allows them to do. So, they only eat vegetables to avoid eating meat that might have been sacrificed to idols because they’re afraid that eating meat sacrificed to idols might defile them.
Aside from this, there were many problems being debated in the church in Rome. The church largely consisted of two groups—Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And, they fought over the issue of obeying the laws in the Old Testament.
Some Jewish Christians insisted that faith in Jesus is not enough. On top of that, they said that one should keep the law, including certain ritualistic laws such as circumcision, food laws, and observing certain days to become righteous.
Even though Paul clearly stated throughout Romans that one can be justified only through faith in Jesus, not works of the law, Paul never said that keeping certain laws is wrong.
For Jewish Christians, it was natural for them to continue to keep what their ancestors had kept for a long time because it was part of their culture and identity. So, even after believing in Jesus, they continued to observe certain food laws and holy days because they felt that they were defiled if they broke them.
On the other hand, Gentile Christians were free from those kinds of ritualistic laws just as we are. No one here would feel like we’re defiled if we ate pork, which is unclean according to Leviticus.
So, the church was divided into two groups according to their faith—those whose faith was weak, and those whose faith was strong. And, Paul urged the latter to accept the ones whose faith is weak without quarreling.
That’s because, from the point of view of the gospel, the issues of food and holy days are not that essential. What’s more important is to be united in God by accepting one another even though we have different opinions.
After urging us to accept each other, Paul stated the reason why we should accept one another. He said, “The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” (Rm 14:3)
The most important reason we can’t judge others who have different opinions about faith is based on the fact that God has accepted them. How can we refuse the one whom God has accepted?
So, the best way to decide how to treat others is to see how God sees and treats them and follow His way. This is better than what’s called ‘the golden rule,’ which is, “Do to others what you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12).
To become Christian means that we start to see things not through our own eyes, but through God’s eyes. What’s valuable to God must be valuable to us. And, we should remember that when God created human beings, He saw that “It was very good.”
Even though human beings may seem insignificant in the world, we must remember that everyone on earth is God’s masterpiece. If we really acknowledge this truth, we won’t treat others the way we want to treat them, but the way God treats them.
After addressing the issue of food, Paul moved onto a different subject. He said,
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Rm 14:5-6)
Some people consider certain days such as the Sabbath more sacred than other days. So, they continue to keep it. But, others consider every day alike because all the days are given by God and we’re to worship Him not only on certain days, but every day.
However, what Paul’s saying here is that how we think about certain days is actually not important. What’s really important is that we’re fully convinced in our own minds before God and do it, or don’t do it, according to what God says in our consciences. That must be the most important principle when we decide to do things. If we can give thanks to God and do things before Him, I think there is no wrong choice.
As Paul said,
“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Rm 14:22-23)
So, the important thing is not whether we avoid eating certain foods or not but whether we do it from faith in God.
For example, drinking alcohol is a sensitive issue in Christianity. We might have different opinions on this matter. But, I personally think that it’s okay to drink alcohol if you’re fully convinced that it’s fine according to God, and if you can drink it after giving thanks to Him for the alcohol.
If not, if you feel something wrong in drinking alcohol, I would recommend you not drink it because it goes against your faith. What’s really important is for us to do things in accordance with the Lord’s will, giving thanks to Him.
As Paul said,
“For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Rm 14:7-8)
Second, we should accept those whose faith is weak without judging them because we’ll all stand before God’s judgment seat. Paul said,
“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat… So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” (Rm 14:10, 12)
These verses remind us of the fact that the only One who has the right to judge is God. We’re not the judge; God is. So, rather than trying to prove that we’re right and judging others who have different opinions, we should humble ourselves before God, remembering that we’ll all stand before God’s judgment seat.
After that, Paul returned to the subject of food.
“I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died… Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” (Rm 14:14-15, 20-21)
Here, we find another important principle in how to treat those whose faith is weak. Even though we know that nothing is unclean in itself and have the freedom to eat anything in faith in God, we should choose not to eat certain foods if it causes other Christians, whose faith is weak, to stumble.
For example, in Korea, drinking alcohol is kind of prohibited in church. So, I’ve never seen my father, who is a pastor, drink alcohol in front of my family or other members in church. So, I thought that He didn’t drink alcohol at all.
But, one day even though it was just a glass of wine, I saw him drink wine with his fellow pastors. They all knew that it wasn’t sinful and had freedom to drink it out of faith, so they drank wine together with 삼겹살 after praying and giving thanks to God. It was a very impressive moment for me. That was the only time I saw my father drink alcohol. And, I learned a lot from it.
Even though he had the freedom to drink, he limited his freedom before other church members because for him to drink alcohol might cause them, who think drinking alcohol is sinful, to stumble.
And, Paul said, “if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.” (Rom 14:15)
So, another important principle in how to treat others is to act in love, seeking what would be the best for them, and trying not to cause them to stumble because of our freedom.
That’s what Paul said in 1 Co 10:23-24,
“I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” - but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1Co 10:23-24)
These are very important principles we should keep in mind when we meet someone in the church who has different thoughts and opinions.
Even though it’s our nature to want to prove that we’re right and judge others who we think have different or wrong ideas, as Christians, we should be able to see others as God’s masterpieces, treat them the way God would treat them, and act in love by accepting others in Christ, seeking the best for them.