‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit … Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.’
Reflections based on Romans 14:1–23.
When you act and speak, you make a series of (often subconscious) choices. This passage encourages us not to make ourselves a stumbling block to those who think differently to us (or are perhaps ‘weaker’ in their faith). Paul was referencing some of the inevitable disputes that occurred in the Early Church. Some believers, for example, felt free to eat anything whereas others did not want to unknowingly sin so ate only vegetables. They were possibly worried that they could unknowingly eat meat sacrificed to idols, as often the sacrifices were only partially burned and the rest of the meat was sent to market to be sold. While some believers knew idols were worthless and unreal anyway so were free from any sense of guilt, others (possibly those who had previously been idol worshippers) found it unhelpful. What I think we can learn from this is not to be judgemental or critical but rather to be aware that what we do and say affects those around us, and we should seek always to build people up.
Church is also the last place this should happen, but it can also be full of comparison. Try and keep a check on any subtle criticisms you may engage in as they are so unhelpful.
Of course we need to be honest – life is full of problems and as Christians we aren’t immune to them. And yet, if we aren’t careful, all we see are the problems. Even when we think we are empathising with someone, we can have a tendency to join in with negativity rather than lifting the conversation to more positive words of hope and encouragement. Proverbs 10:11 reminds us that ‘the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life’, so let’s use ours in that way.
Prayer: Lord help me not to be a stumbling block to anyone around me, but to be one that encourages and builds up. Teach me to keep a check on the words I say and the actions I take.