Romans 14:13 uses a play on words that can’t be rendered in English. The verse reads, literally, “So, let us no longer judge each other. But judge this way instead: not to put a stumbling block or offense in the way of a brother or sister.” This verse says, in effect, “Don’t judge this way; judge this way instead!”
The NLT rightly conveys the sense of the judgment we’re to avoid: “So let’s stop condemning each other.” Paul is not saying that we should blithely accept everything our fellow Christians say or think. There are times for discernment, as well as for admonishment and correction. But even when we disagree over crucial matters, we must avoid haughty condemnation. If our beliefs are true or our actions righteous, credit goes to God. In the context of Romans 14, however, Paul is focusing especially on issues that are not essential. When we differ with other believers over the nonessentials, we should avoid judging them.
How might Romans 14:13 play out in our context? I have witnessed or experienced condemnation among Christians over such matters as: whether one drinks alcohol or not; whom one prefers for President; whether one is “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” how one speaks of biblical authority; whether or not one is a Calvinist or a Wesleyan; what one believes about same-sex marriage in a civil context, how one thinks women should or should not minister in church, etc. Surely these are matters about which Christians will disagree. But we must make sure that our disagreements don’t morph into condemnation that keeps people from growing in their knowledge of and obedience to God’s truth.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced condemnation by other Christians? Over what issues? Do you tend to look down on, or even to judge, other Christians who disagree with you? Over what issues?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must confess that I do look down on my fellow believers. You know the ones I’m talking about. Their views bother me. Their self-assured manner bothers me. The fact that they often look down on me because of my views bothers me. But being bothered is one thing. Condemning my fellow Christians is another. It is a sin. So I confess, Lord, that I have sinned in this way. Please forgive me.
Moreover, give me a heart of acceptance for all of my Christian siblings. Such acceptance won’t mean that I affirm their beliefs if I think they are incorrect. And it won’t mean that I endorse behavior that is contrary to your Word. But I need to look upon people, even and especially those with whom I disagree, with grace and love. So help me, Lord, to “judge” to live in such a way that I do not put a stumbling block in the way of another because of my judgmentalism. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
During the last few weeks of the summer, I take a break from writing new reflections. We’ll be sending out reflections I wrote a couple of years ago on Paul’s letter to the Romans. I pray that God uses these to deepen your relationship with him and to strengthen your faithfulness as his disciple. We’ll be sending out new reflections beginning on Tuesday, September 4.