“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” (Romans 14:1, NASB95)
Have you ever been in a situation where someone seemed to jump on you because of your lack of knowledge or maybe because you believed something that may have resulted from some of that knowledge? Or maybe you were intimidated to say anything because those around you seem to know so much more and they didn’t seem open to your input. I think this happens to all of us, and I think there are times where we may even be guilty of being the one who makes others uncomfortable or set aside.
This next section in Romans 14 has a lot to do with how we treat others when it comes to some of those growth areas or maybe what we might call biblical gray areas. These principles even apply to how we treat one another on areas where maybe there is clear truth which might need to be appropriately shared.
Romans 14:1 says to “accept the one who is weak in faith.” The first word here is accept, and it means to receive, to accept as one’s companion, to receive into one’s home, and to be kind to. In the English Standard Version it says to “welcome” this person. It clearly goes beyond tolerating and putting up with, but extends to a full hearted embrace.
This person who we are to take into our circle is described as one who is “weak in faith.” We are not referring here to one who knowingly and willfully opposes a clear teaching of Scripture, but rather one who is struggling over some understanding of how they are to walk in relation to their faith in Christ. Specifically, as we will see in the next verses this is including those who struggle with eating meat which was left over from pagan temple sacrifices and was now being sold in the markets. There is nothing evil about eating or not eating the meat, yet some struggled over it and some didn’t. It is these people who are wrestling with some aspect of their understanding and desiring to continue to grow in Christ that we are to accept, and we are to do this as the verse continues for whom they are as brothers and sisters in Christ and not people that we need to set straight.
We’ll get into this more as we move through the verses which follow, but the greater principle here is how we are to treat one another in the body of Christ—the church. We are not the gatekeepers who determine who trusts Jesus Christ for their salvation. God is the one who calls and He knows each and every single one of us from the beginning of time.
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:29–30, ESV)
God is the one who decides who comprises His church, and it is His Spirit who knits us together as one. Being one, we are to love one another and to engage in all of the one another’s of Scripture of which we looked at some in chapter 12. This might include teaching, and rebuking, and correcting so that we might be trained in righteous living (2 Timothy 3:16), and sometimes this might be difficult. But it is never to be about questioning God’s choices. It may mean helping to shape biblical thinking, but it doesn’t mean pressing someone to do something over which they struggle in their conscience just because we might be free in Christ to engage in that same activity. This might extend to dancing, watching movies, education of our children, types of music, and even what we eat. There is so much that we can divide ourselves over that really doesn’t rise to the level that Scripture has made a clear declaration concerning it and for which our opinions might vary.
Sure, there are times when we need to confront one another over things, and as we read Scripture, there may even be times when the church needs to take some disciplinary action. But even then the purpose in doing so is restoration and the subject behind it needs to clearly be that which God calls sin. But this is not the majority of our interaction, and it is not the subject of this passage. Here we are considering how we walk with one another when we don’t see biblically eye to eye on the small stuff (which is probably big to them), and here we are clearly to embrace them as fellow heirs in Christ.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:12–17, NASB95)