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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 6, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Romans 14:1–12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then, each of us will be accountable to God. (NRSV)

Paul is not advocating for the paleo diet when he says in verse 2 of this passage that the weak eat only vegetables. Vegetarians save your hate mail. The issue Paul is addressing here has less to do with the Christian’s diet than it has to do with her company, the people she associates with and the things they get up to. Her friends, for example, may “eat anything,” up to and including meat used for pagan ritualistic sacrifice, and for some of her church friends that’s not OK.

The standard the apostle provides for faith in the midst of such a dispute is so untechnical. One almost wants a checklist of things a faithful person can and can’t eat. But what we get instead is a plea for forbearance informed both by a personal encounter with grace and by an awareness of the coming judgment. That plea is grounded in an affirmation you may have heard recited at a funeral, that “whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”

Paul wants his Roman readers to embrace the truth that both those who observe dietary restrictions for reasons of conscience and their omnivore counterparts, both those who observe a Saturday sabbath and those who observe a Sunday Lord’s Day, have been welcomed by God into a community founded not on legal moral prescriptions but on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Each of us will be accountable to God, Paul reminds us (using some lines he also employs in the letter to the Philippians). Holding ourselves accountable to our siblings in the faith, not judging them or quarreling with them over our divergent opinions, should keep our accountability to God front-of-mind.

Eternal God, for the promise that we belong not to ourselves but to you, we give you thanks. Help us to trust ourselves and our brothers and sisters to you in a spirit of welcome, the same welcome we have in Christ, who lived for us, died for us, and rose again for us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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