When I was a senior in high school, I had the privilege of serving as the president of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. For our first meeting of the year, I decided to make Totino’s pizza rolls for everyone to eat. One of my friends, a Messianic Jew, came to the meeting. He did not eat the pizza rolls, which seemed to be the only reason why some people came to the meeting. After the meeting ended, he came to me and asked if I could get cheese pizza rolls for our next meeting together. He did not eat the pepperoni because of his personal beliefs.
What was I to do? Should I have argued with him about what God’s word said about this particular subject? Should I have tried to impose my own beliefs upon him? No. In Romans 14, Paul talks about this very situation. Some of the Jews in Rome were convinced that God declared certain foods unclean. Others knew, without a doubt, that every kind of animal was clean. What advice does Paul give the Roman people?
In verse 20, Paul states that every kind of food is clean. Surely, people on the later side of the argument began to gloat at the very reading of these words. In the same verse Paul tells them that, even though all food is clean, a man should not eat anything that will make his brother stumble.
Even if we know that God permits something in our lives, someone else may have a conviction against that. We do need to take time to know the convictions of those around us, especially the convictions of new brothers and sisters in Christ. When someone has a conviction that we do not share, we need to honor that conviction. How do we honor that conviction? We do so by taking part in that conviction with them. This act will show our brothers and sisters that we support their pursuit of obedience toward God.
Not only should we participate in our brother or sister’s conviction, but also we should encourage our brother’s, or sister’s, obedience to that conviction. In verse 23 Paul states that a man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating does not come from faith. If we do not continue to encourage our brothers and sisters to keep their convictions, and they decide to act against that conviction, we are partly responsible for their sin. If someone breaks a conviction, he or she is acting against faith.
This is the same for us. If we feel convicted that something is wrong, or something is right, we are acting against faith when we disobey that conviction. What does this do to our relationship with God?
The very last statement Paul makes in verse 23 is this, “…and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” Paul’s definition of sin is anything that does not come from faith. At first glance, it may seem like Paul is only talking about obeying our self-convictions. What if his statement is far deeper than that?
Paul tells the Roman people that if they act against their convictions, they are not acting from faith. Then, he broadens his statement by adding his definition of sin. Paul begins in chapter 14 talking about judging our brothers and sisters. Then, he moves on to not making a brother or sister fall. After this, Paul calls for self-examination.
“You do not have the right to judge your brothers. In fact, your brothers are falling because of your judgments on them. Thirdly, no one on the earth can always act from faith.”
Let us spend a few moments today examining ourselves. Think about every aspect of life. Is everything we do a result of the faith we have in Christ Jesus? Striving for such a thing separates the Christian from the Christ-follower. If a fellow brother or sister has a conviction that we do not share, let us join them to show our support for the growing body of Christ. Let us continue to encourage them in that conviction. If we hold a conviction that others may not, let us hold strong in that conviction as to not act against the faith we have in our Savior.
In acting this way, we will edify the body of Christ. We will be a part of Christian community in the way it was designed. We are a family in Christ Jesus. We should begin to act like it. All of these things will come together for the glory of God.