Romans 14: 1-12

Disputable Matters

In 1878 Floyd Hatfiled was taking his hogs to the butcher when another man spotted what he thought was one of his lost hogs. After examining the pig, Randolph McCoy claimed the hog was his and that the notches in the pigs ears were his and not the marks of a Hatfield. A dispute broke out and the matter was taken to court. In court it was ruled that the pig was in fact the Hatfields. Or so said the presiding judge Anderson Hatfield. This is what began one of the greatest feuds in American History- Hatfield and McCoys.

A key witness was Bill Staton, a relative of both families, and in 1880 Staton was killed by two McCoy brothers. The feud escalated after Roseanna McCoy entered a relationship with Devil Anse's son "Johnse." Johnse eventually abandoned the pregnant Roseanna for her cousin. There would be ambushes, hiring of hitmen, fist and knife fights, New Years massacre, the flogging of a wife, jail escapes, hangings and more. 

The point of that story is that you need to make sure you properly mark your pigs. Too many running around with no markings. No, the point of that story is that small things can add up to big things. It's the snowball effect. 

This highlights that it can be difficult to get along with people, and if our hearts are not in the right place then little things can become big things. Scripture says it can be hard to get along, but it also says that in Christ, we can walk in love. We can bless those who persecute us. We are to do what is honorable in the sight of all and repay no one evil for evil. The passage we are looking at gets at this but specifically talks about how we receive and accept people who may think differently from us on issues. There are disputable issues in which it's ok to think differently, and in Christ we can still love and respect the other person. 

  • Disputable Matters

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

In the Christian faith there are things that are essential to our walk with Christ. Those things are repeated throughout Scripture. The deity of Jesus, the atonement, judgment to come, the call to separate from the world and live holy lives. These are things that if you deny you lose the Christian faith. We would not want to harm a person for these differences, but these are differences that when you deny you deny an essential part of what it means to be a Christian. We are right to be concerned for a person. Scripture is clear and explicit on these core issues. But there are many other things that fall into the category of being non-essential. Some of these are mentioned in this passage and they include: eating meat, observing holidays, drinking wine. 

These are things that we can reason over, talk through, debate. I think the NIV translation of this as disputable matters is very helpful. Not that we want to dispute these, but that it is ok to think differently. We can debate them. They are secondary issues. Perhaps a little more significant than just debating who the greatest band of all time is or perhaps those great debates in your first year of marriage such as does the trash can go under the sink or out in the open.  

They are disputable. Not indifferent. For some these issues are very important and for some they are not, and that is why the issue comes up, and why we have a section of SCripture dealing with them. 

Let's talk about these issues at hand:

Eating Meat: v2-3. Some would not eat meat because meat was often sacrificed to idols. Remember the second commandment to have no idols. I am not to have idols and so I certainly am not going to eat meat that has been sacrificed to those idols. And so if I go to the market that day for food, and all the meat at Publix has been sacrificed to idols, I am not going to eat meat. 

Drinking Wine: v21 may be the same issue as with meat, that the wine was sacrificed to idols or it could have just been wanting to be separate from the excessive drinking and carousing that went on in pagan culture. 

Observing Holidays: 5-6. It may involve observing religious holidays and different days being sacred. It certainly could relate to feasts and celebrations prescribed in the Old Testament. God told us to observe that feast, how can you not do that??

It may very well be that those with strong consciences were gentiles who grew up with these kinds of things and it was just a way of life. The weak conceive may have been the jewish Christians who grew up with these forbidden things and they never thought to do them. Gentile Christians had nothing forbidden and were open to it all. It is similar today. If you grow up in a household meat is forbidden and you get around others who act like wolves.

One thing  going on in this church is the merger of Jew and gentles. They were from very different backgrounds and faiths and they had all come to Jesus. 

These are issues of conscience. You can do them or you can refrain from them. Both have valid points. It is possible to honor God in either path. 

Now it's clear that you don't want to sin when doing these things. If you eat meat sacrificed to idols don’t worship that idol. If you drink wine don't get drunk. Don't sin. But it is possible in these to do things that differ with other believers. 

  • Only Christian movies or can you watch all. Can you watch a PG or PG 13. 
  • Can you eat at the Thai restaurant?
  • Christians music or non Christian music
  • Can you drink alcohol or not. 

It would be nice to mandate everyone do what you want them to do, but that is not what we are called to. God gives freedom

  • The Problem that Arises

The problem is that in these disputable matters, there are some that have faith to participate and others who do not have faith to participate. Some eat meat, but some think that eating meat is a sin. And so then what happens, is in issues where freedom should be allowed, Christians instead begin to judge and despise the other. That is a relational rift. A break in unity and harmony. A dislike for each other begins. 

Despise. The one eating begins to despise the one not eating. as treating someone or something as of no account despise, disdain, make light of. Treat with contempt. Jesus used this word when telling the parable about the self righteous Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee boasts of all he has done and the tax collector stood far off, wouldnt even look up to heaven. He felt unworthy and that is how the Pharisee treated him. Luke 18:9

The one who doesn’t eat begins to judge. Judge in the negative sense condemn, find fault with; as a legal technical term as with a human judge, condemn, hand over for punishment; passive be on trial, be judged; an obviously negative verdict condemn, punish 

This is like when you are at the buffet line and your friend Dave who is vegan, always working out, telling you to honor your body with more carrots and telling how many calories are in everything. I can’t enjoy my four pound patty melt and double fry when he is here. And he tells me I should'nt wear the miller lite tattoo. No the difference is that Dave is not just telling you to do a little better but he is telling you that you are disobeying God. That ramps up the intensity more, and so ramps up the intensity of your displike for him. He is a stick in the mud and I dont like him. Dave is despised by the one who is strong in his faith.  

We are to receive those who are weak in faith. receive hospitably, accept, welcome. Acts 18:26 a man by the name Aollos is saved and he begins to speak boldly. A more mature couple hears him and takes him “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Act 18:26 ESV). had him over for dinner and began to talk about the faith and the word. Apollos had some growing to do. He was not despised for being immature. How do you look at people younger than you? Are they an obstacle, a nuisance, or someone you want to put your arm around and spend time with. 

Don’t look down on the other. Dont judge them. They are way down the line and you don’t want anything to do with them. Or you look at them as being backslidden, less than a Christian. 

[3 One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat; and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to criticize another's household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls.

The problem is not the meat or wine or days off of work. The issue is the judging, despising. There is freedom. You can do it. It is ok. 

Want to talk about some other issues? Christian music or nonChristian music. How about wearing a mask during Covid. How about social distance? Those were clear lines. Do you obey government mandates or not? Other social issues. 

There are issues we can have freedom in. **It is a reminder that people are not called to conform to your preferences but to God’s standards. **

The kingdom is bigger than you and your preferences

  • Living to the Lord

Let me just say loving other people is a decision that you make to work hard at caring for them and their needs. Loving people is not liking people because they make you comfortable and do what you want. Love is something we do even when people let us down, injure us. Knowing that Jesus accepts you even when you let him down is a key part of being able to love others.

[7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

New bearing for what is acceptable and unacceptable. Copernican revolution. Ptolemaic. 150 ce. Geocentric view of world that saw the earth as stationary and everything else revolves around. 

[11 For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 

The Lord First. Others second. I don't just want to please myself. I want to honor the Lord. I want to help others honor the Lord. Put their spiritual well being ahead of your wants, preferences, desires. 

Give people room. Can other believers articulate a sound position on this issue? If so, I should be willing to accept them. What is my basis for disapproving of the them? What is their justification for what they are doing. 

Put their needs first. Sometimes when people get into arguments they are not even hearing the other person's point of view. Two people who think differently on debatable matters, but so wound up in pride they can't hear the other. Only know 

-Don’t put stumbling blocks. Dont insist on things that might cause another to struggle. If a friend struggles with beer then dont have beer. If he stumbles over watching a movie then dont watch a movie. You may have a preference, but dont insist on things being a certain way if others do not have faith that they can do it unto the Lord. 

Political debates. Some can enter into it and some are easily angered. Dont bring it up. Dont want to cause stumbling. 

What you feel free to do, you are to consider how it affects others. 

[15 For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. By what you eat, do not destroy that one for whom Christ died. 

[We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written “The reproaches of those who reproached you have fallen on me.” Romans 15:1-3

-Build others up. Life is not about pleasing yourself. This is a powerful attitude to have. Church is a place to cultivate it. Don't put others down. Don't force them to do things they are not up for or not comfortable with. Meet them where they are at. Your purpose is not yourself. Consider others. Consider how you can bless other people. Don't be offended when they think differently from you. 

[15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 

[17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

We have to create a different mindset. We can't be so easily offended. If you are going to have meaningful and lasting relationships at some point you will have to let some things slide. Don't let everything slide but something you have to. If everything irritates you then you have issues– pride. Mindset that seeks to honor Christ and put others first. 

Christians have to change. Because none of those churches are doing things right!! There is an immaturity that says I don't like what you did and I won't be a part of a church. They got ruffled. If you are in church, for any period of time, and your feathers dont get ruffled a little, then that church has short changed you. Bless your church. Bless your brother and sister, your mom and dad, your kids. You can love them through differences.

**Removing opportunities to deny yourself for others also removed opportunities to grow like Christ.**