I’m a vegetarian.
I do not follow this diet because I’m an animal activist, nor for spiritual reasons. My only reason for adhering to a vegetarian diet is because my body simply feels better when I don’t eat meat.
Because I’m a vegetarian, I do not look upon others with disdain for eating meat. Go ahead. Eat your chicken legs, hamburgers and barbecue sandwiches. I’ll even rustle you up some meat-filled dishes if you come over to my house for dinner. I have eaten the vegetable sandwich at the Five Guys at Peninsula Town Center, and have enjoyed the smell of the burgers on the grill along the company I was keeping.
However, like most Christians, I have known fellow believers who look upon the infractions of others who break the rules of eating, drinking, make-up, dancing, movies, etc. with disdain or horror.
I’ve known Christians who don’t drink alcohol. I have Christian friends who would refuse to watch movies that I have in my DVD collection. I’ve even known those who believed women should not wear pants.
In Romans 14:13, Paul tells us: “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.“
That said, if you won’t drink alcohol, I won’t offer you a glass of wine. If you won’t watch C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia films, I won’t invite you over to watch them. If you are a woman who only wears skirts, then that’s your choice.
Paul refers to the conscience of the believer in this section of passage. He tells us that if a brother or sister in the body believes that an otherwise indifferent activity is sinful, to them it is exactly that. If the person who believes that the activity is sinful participates in the activity, then they are committing sin. Why? Because they are not pursuing their belief.
They are going against their conscience and not acting by faith.
This is why, as believers, we should be aware of how others believe, and take care to not hinder them in their belief. As Paul says, “never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”
I know that I have freedom in the Lord. There are so many things I have the freedom to do, eat and drink. But I celebrate my freedom in the presence of God without passing judgment on others. And if there is something I believe, I should not do in my conscience, then I will not do it. Doing it would be sin.
There was a time when Martin Luther was called to recant his writings – “Unless I am convinced by sacred scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant because my conscience is held captive by the Word of God. And to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.“
Do what you believe. Don’t judge others for doing what they believe. And especially don’t cause others to stumble.
Acting against conscience is neither right nor safe. Be right and safe and experience the righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)