Patricia Hofer

The things that cause Christians to stumble.

In this chapter in Romans, Paul talks about the individual differences in how Christians worship. Some consider one day more sacred than another. Some eat meat and some don’t. Some have a different view of what is clean or unclean, pure or impure. As Paul concluded: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit …” (NIV Rom. 14:17)
It seems clear here that Paul is telling his followers that things in this natural life are neither clearly spiritual nor unspiritual. For those Jews who still were afraid of the impurity of certain kinds of food and preparations, those things would be impure. As Paul says, the activities and functions of this life are what we “consider” or “esteem” them to be (5).
What a remarkable statement of tolerance and compassion this is. What Paul knew, I think, is that the nonessential things of Christian believing were tearing his early churches apart. Converts were being distracted and divided by the outward belief forms of the various members. But, as Paul reminds us, “We live for the Lord” (14:8). That is the basis of our Christian faith. So Paul wrote: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (Rom. 14:13)
We are all God’s children, and the spirit of His Son, Christ’s spirit, is working in each of us, in each human consciousness, to persuade and encourage us, to save us. And so, when it comes to Christian believing, that inner light of Christ must be our guide.

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