13Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
14I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.
16Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;
18For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
19So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
20Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
21It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.
22The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
23But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.
First of all, we must take heed not to consider this message a distinct explanation. I don’t feel this applies to just food, rather it is being used as an explanation since all Jews and Gentiles can relate. The Jews were instructed by God in Leviticus to only eat certain foods, however since Christ has now fulfilled The Law, we are no longer required to follow those rules.
I really need to remember where this passage is. This is the explanation to a debate common among Christians. “Is drinking alcohol bad?” The whole argument in the first place is not of God, since it provokes quarrels and unrest amongst brethren.
I mentioned before about a professed Christian I met that said he doesn’t eat pork because of God. Now, he recognizes that eating pork is not even considered a sin, however his conscience is hindered and he feels convicted by doing so. Keep in mind, God’s sovereignty has made him that way. So who then are we to ridicule him for feeling that way and carrying it out? He does it out of respect for God.
Let’s bump it up to alcohol consumption. I’m sure as soon as I mentioned it, you already contemplated your stance on the matter. Some of my good friends are recovering alcoholics. Their stance is clear: they don’t consume alcohol because it causes them to act in a way displeasing to the Lord. It becomes their God. In the same circle of friends, I know people who enjoy a beer or two with dinner on occasion or a glass of wine with their wife. Who is wrong in their actions? Paul here tells us neither is wrong.
I had a friend that was very Christian in the Marine Corps. Quite a shining example of Christ. It was a time when I was apt to partying and the like. When we returned from Iraq, I had him and some others over for a BBQ and he decided he would “have a beer or two” with the rest of his comrades. He had never had a drop of alcohol in his life. His distaste for beer led to us trying to accompany his “alcoholic virginity” by making him some sweeter mixed drinks. Needless to say, he got drunk quite quickly. The night ended terribly with him getting flashbacks from the war. It only took him drinking once or twice more to realize that he just shouldn’t drink alcohol period. The effects of alcohol on him were displeasing to God.
Therefore, Paul here is telling us that as we follow that which God puts on our hearts to follow, we should not ridicule another because we are different, since we are ALL unique, according to His design. If someone prefers not to partake of something, be it food, drink, or anything else in order to honor God, who are we to question that? Likewise, we are not to judge those who do not follow the “rules” on our hearts and do partake of these things just because they do not do what we do. Keep in mind, if these things DO cause a brother to stumble, it is our duty to help them. Let us not use this opportunity, however to point fingers or judge, for that does not help them at all. Ever tell an alcoholic they need to stop drinking? Did it help them stop? This is why we must develop strong and trusting relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 1) to give us the courage and boldness to step up and speak to these members of our family and strengthen them and 2) so that they will respect our words. It is through prayer and petition that these things are accomplished for “through God all things are possible.”
In respect to the choices we and others make, Paul notes here in the same breath that we are not to create stumbling blocks for one another. A good illustration of this is inviting recovering alcoholic friends to a party and then breaking out the booze once they get there. Even folks who choose not to drink at all: presenting that temptation is dishonoring to them and to God. I feel that instead of having an attitude of “that’s they’re decision, but I’m still going to do it” is not a very brotherly attitude to have, is it? In fact, we are to support one another where they are weak, just like a family always (or should always) help its members. Going out to dinner with someone who chooses not to drink alcohol, we should be able to decide not to order any out of respect. This can be applied to anything: cursing, movies, certain foods, etc. Even people who are trying to control their calorie intake. How fair is it to invite them to go to a buffet with you? If you feel you cannot withhold yourself from these things, maybe that’s something you need to look at about yourself.
Is your need or want of that thing more important than God’s kingdom? Why?