Paul continues to give great life applications of the gospel in the next chapters. None of these are unfamiliar to us but helpful to remind ourselves. As we did yesterday, let’s remember that this is not a set of behaviors and customs to copy but rather a transformation of ourselves by God into a new person, changing the way we think and the way we live. So, as God daily transforms us and we grow in our faith, what will our lives begin to look like? They will begin to look like INTEGRITY. They will begin to look like LOVE.
We worship God and serve Him only, but we submit and show respect to governing authorities (Romans 13:1). We do so not out of fear of punishment but because it is the right thing to do. It is integrity.
We give to everyone what we owe them (including love) and owe nothing to anyone (13:7-8). This includes paying any taxes we owe to the government and refers to showing those in authority the respect and honor we owe them.
Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of the law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These – and other such commandments – are summed up in this one commandment. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. – Romans 13:8-10
We remove the dirty clothing of indulging in evil desires and put on the shining armor of right living (13:12,14b). Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy (13:13). The first part of that list seems pretty easy to avoid – I have no desire for those things. But notice how Paul lumps quarreling and jealousy in with wild parties, drunkenness, promiscuity and immoral living. We can have victory over all of these things if we “clothe ourselves with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ” (13:14a).
Paul goes on with this idea of refraining from quarreling, putting it in the perspective of not judging or condemning one another. When we are clothed in the presence of Jesus, we accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong (Romans 14:1). Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval (14:4). So God will do the judging and He will help them while we do what? Love one another – that is all we are obligated to do.
So, out of love for one another, we stop condemning each other and decide instead to live in such a way that we do not cause another believer to stumble or fall (14:13). Paul goes into the example of what we eat and drink, how followers of Christ have different opinions of what is right to put into our bodies. I think of the issue of alcohol. I feel strongly about my stand against alcohol, therefore it would be wrong for me to drink – I believe it would cause me to stumble and others who would see what I was doing. Now I have a lot of close friends fully devoted to God who do not hold my same convictions. What do I do with this? Paul makes it clear – I don’t condemn them, I don’t look down on them. Each of us will give a personal account to God and He will be our only Judge (14:10-12).
I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. – Romans 14:14-23
We do what we believe is right and avoid doing anything we have doubts about or that might cause someone else to stumble, serving Christ with a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So I may have to give up something I have no personal convictions about simply because the Holy Spirit is asking me to put the needs of others before myself. Or, going back to our first point today, out of submission to the authorities of the Church in which I worship, I may give up something or avoid doing something.
We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself…May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. – Romans 15:1-3,5-7