In a social media age, where we're inundated with opinions, viewpoints, and offenses, I think Paul's teaching in Romans 14 has never been more relevant.
Paul is writing to a church in Rome faced with the difficult task of trying to find unity amidst incredible diversity.
In 49 AD, Emperor Claudius declared an edict forcing all the Jews to leave Rome. When the Jewish Christians return in the mid 50's they found their church had taken on a Gentile flavor. These Gentile Christians were experiencing complete freedom from the law and felt ZERO obligation to honor the festivals, rules, and rituals of the returning Jewish Christians.
This particular disagreement in Romans 14 is about what food you should be allowed to eat as a Christian. The Jewish Christians (described as weak) believed that you shouldn't be allowed to eat meat that had been sacrificed to a pagan idol because it was unclean. The Gentile Christians (described as strong) felt as though these rules were unnecessary and as a result they would flaunt their freedom in front of the Jewish Christians.
Paul writes this passage to address issues of ADIAPHORA, non-essential matters that are deemed scripturally neutral. Paul realizes that their will always be differing opinions within the body of Christ and the GOAL SHOULD BE UNITY, NOT UNIFORMITY. Paul does not ask those within the body of Christ to believe the same thing regarding this matter or various other matters, but he does expect them to LOVE each other and lay down their own preferences for the unity of the church.
He pleads with them to never let a non-essential issue of faith become a stumbling block for someone else. That's not love. Don't allow something you're passionate about (a non-essential matter) divide people or stop the work of God in someone's life.
Gentile Christians - If your Jewish brothers/sisters are offended by what your'e eating - don't eat it!
Jewish Christians - If your Gentile brothers/sisters don't feel obligated to obey your laws - don't make them.
This means LOVE is more important than your personal freedom. This means LOVE is not putting unnecessary weight upon your brothers/sisters in Christ. This means LOVE is allowing our unity in Christ to supersede our differences of opinion.
Message preached at City Church 9.20.15 - Welcome Home: Part 2