Therefore 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. I 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. For 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. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:13-17)
Everything is not about us. I know it sounds obvious, but the way we live on a daily basis betrays what we believe to be true with how we respond. We are often focused on our own rights and freedoms at the expense of someone else’s.
In these verses, the topic is food, but the issue is stumbling. We can create spiritual issues in other believers by not stewarding our freedom. Living life alongside others makes it essential that we consider where they are and how God is guiding them. That’s what loving others with God’s love entails. It’s what our obedience entails.
God is personal. He has each of us on a personal journey, and He will encourage us and challenge us along the way in personal ways. It doesn’t mean that He changes His ways; He simply personalizes them. He knows our personalities; after all, He created us. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows our experiences and our issues. He knows our temptations. He knows how to best reach us in every moment of our lives.
That can comfort me when I consider the personal implications but cause a pause when I consider what that means as I do life alongside others. What if the way God is guiding me contradicts the way God is guiding someone else? Do I stand firmly in my conviction and in the freedom He’s given me to live within His will, or do I yield to someone else’s conviction?
First, God never contradicts Himself. Just because He is guiding one person to be personally convicted about something and not another isn’t a contradiction. He is not going against His will. He in working within His will but also in His timing. Second, our freedom in Christ always includes obedience. It’s not about our rights to respond how we want. It’s about our responsibility to remain in the confines of God’s will. And those confines are much more freeing than they are limiting. If we choose to see them as oppressive, we’re seeing something with skewed vision.
Today’s verses admonish us to love other believers through encouraging them along their spiritual journeys. To seek God and His truthful guidance and to follow it as closely as He reveals. That means, there will be times when God is challenging someone to tighten up on something He’s given you freedom from or over. Perhaps You wrestled through it with Him and came out on the other side of the struggle with renewed vision, or perhaps it’s something He simply gave you peace about without the struggle. Either way, you must respect where God currently has the other person.
We are never to belittle or contradict a believer who is seeking to follow the will of God. We can have conversations about the issue; we can and should seek guidance in Scripture. But when it comes to applying the principle or guideline in question, we need to always encourage the person to follow God’s leading.
God’s love is generous, and it is understanding. It is compassionate and forbearing. As you live God’s love out loud, you will authentically reflect all these characteristics and more.
Dear God, please place in the center of my attention any situation or relationship in which I need to encourage another believer to seek, know, and follow Your will. I don’t want to seem to know it all because I don’t. I can get excited about growing in my relationship with You, and I know that can come across as arrogant as I share my aha moments with others. Help me never to put my experience before someone else’s. Help me to listen and honor You with every word. Help me to be an encouragement as I live Your love out loud.