Wednesday, March 4, 2015
March 4 – Slandering good?
For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat. Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:15-18 HCSB)
The backstory to this teaching comes from when the first century Christians were no longer obligated to follow the strict kosher dietary laws that had been a part of the Old Testament. God had revealed to Peter and Paul that everything was now clean, and even Gentiles could be welcomed into the Kingdom of God purely by faith in Jesus without the old ritualistic laws. A new confusion arose though, as much of the meat for sale in the markets was not kosher and had been offered to the local gods and idols according to the superstitions of the various peoples within the Roman Empire. Was it okay to eat meat that had been dedicated to an evil god? Some of the new believers felt that it was sinful of them to do so and refused to eat it, while others had the faith that since idols were worthless and they belonged to Jesus, they didn’t need to fear any evil from eating perfectly good meat.
The truth was that those who had the faith to go ahead and eat it were not sinning at all, with one exception: if they tried to force the other Christians to eat against their will, they displeased God. They were making their brothers and sisters in faith participate in an activity that hurt their conscience. It wasn’t the eating or abstaining from food that was a sin, but the wounding of their fellow believers. Those who felt guilty about eating that meat were being destroyed by their brothers, as the passage says. Maybe they made fun of those who were hesitant to eat that meat, ribbing them for being weak in faith or superstitious. And on the other hand, maybe those who abstained from food offered to idols looked down on those who ate it as being unspiritual and contaminated by the world. They sinned just as much as the first group.
God is showing us here that legalistic details of who did what, who said what and who ate what are not as important as how we treat each other. If you offend your brother or sister by demanding that they copy you, no matter how much you believe in what you do, this passage says that the good you do will be “slandered.” The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, it’s not legalism. It’s righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. When God’s people are truly living in His Kingdom, righteousness, peace and joy should emanate from them. There is no need to force anyone to do something, even if you’re convinced it’s right. God is the one who deals with the inner workings of a person’s soul and conscience, so trust that God will speak to them in His way and His time, and treat them well. God’s promise is that this makes us acceptable to Him, and approved by men.