Are There Danger in Criticism? (Romans 14)
By the Apostle Paul — Please see my response below
Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and do not argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who do not. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we do not live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it is to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let us stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Do not let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
Do not tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat, drink wine, or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. (Romans 14)
So do not let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. (Colossians 2:16-19)
Some Christians believed that these words are commands to go contrary to the laws of God. Paul is not giving such a command to disobey God’s laws, instead, for the sake of peace among believers who are still “working out their salvation with fear and trembling”, that we must not argue or condemn them.
In the past, religious leaders would enforce certain commands in the Bible given by other spiritual leaders:
- “Men and women among you who act as mediums or who consult the spirits of the dead must be put to death by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense.” Leviticus 20:27
- “Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.” Hebrew 11:37
- You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community.
- d) Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. “Of all the land animals, these are the ones you may use for food.” Leviticus 11:1-2
If the believers were caught doing something contrary to what the prophets or the Word of God commands, they would be condemned and be put to death. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In Genesis 2:16-17, the Lord God warned Adam, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” The result of going contrary to God’s command is condemnation, even to death.
But since Jesus died for our sins, the apostle Paul encourages us not to condemn other believers who are going contrary to God’s commandment, but leave all judgment to God (in the day of Judgement). For it was Jesus who made these statements.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23
We do not want to break God’s laws (See Exodus 20). We must be obedient to the commandment of Jesus Christ. As Paul suggest, we must not condemn those who believe they should go contrary to God’s law, Let God be the final judge.