Thursday, February 8, 2018

Weak and Strong Christians

"One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables" (Romans 14:2).

Romans 14 deals with an important issue in community among Christians. There are always some differences of understanding between Christians, and Paul here tells us we are to bear with one another on such matters.

Beyond this, Paul writes that some believers are “weak.” The weak believer is the one who fears to make use of some good gift that God has given to mankind and to the church. In Paul’s day the weak believer was afraid to eat meat and drink wine sacrificed to idols. In our day many believers are afraid to drink wine at all.

If a man believes that it is a sin to eat meat, and then goes ahead and eats it, he has sinned. He has sinned not because he has eaten meat, but because he has done something he thinks God has forbidden. Because of this, Paul says that strong Christians are to be careful not to lead weak Christians into sin by encouraging them to go against their consciences.

Paul admonishes us “not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.… It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall” (Romans 14:13, 21). How can I cause my weaker brother to fall? By flaunting my liberty and encouraging him to act against his conscience.

If, on the other hand, I eat or drink in private without violating my conscience, I have offered no offense. The weaker brother may not like my doing it, and he may even be shocked, but I have not encouraged him to sin. Moreover, Paul makes it very clear that the weak believer is not to tyrannize the church. When the weak Judaizers wanted Paul to eat separately from the Gentiles, Paul adamantly refused (Galatians 2). The strong believer must oppose the weak believer when he tries to make his scruples a law for the whole community.

Some believers think no Christian should do anything that other Christians forbid. Think through this issue carefully and be able to articulate your position. Where would you draw the line between leading others to stumble and exercising your liberty?