Love must be supreme. It is our goal because Jesus is love personified. The first eight chapters of Romans are about grace and glory, chapters 9 through 11 are about Israel, and starting in chapter 12, Paul turns a corner as he begins to exhort believers in godly and right relationships—with fellow believers, civil authorities, and even our enemies. Along those lines, in Romans chapter 14, Paul continues teaching the essential Christian call to love one another.
Our Lives Affect Others
This supreme call to love others does not always match conventional wisdom and certainly isn’t in line with the attitudes and values of the world. It is a higher law and requires us to esteem others better than ourselves. Taking that higher road will not always make sense to our minds, but it will always make peace to our hearts. Remember, being right is not the goal; love is.
“So stop being critical and condemning of other believers, but instead determine to never deliberately cause a brother or sister to stumble and fall because of your actions.Romans 14:13–15 TPT
I know and am convinced by personal revelation from the Lord Jesus that there is nothing wrong with eating any food. But to the one who considers it to be unclean, it is unacceptable. If your brother or sister is offended because you insist on eating what you want, it is no longer love that rules your conduct. Why would you wound someone for whom the Messiah gave his life, just so you can eat what you want”
Let Love Rule Your Conduct
There is a higher level of “rightness” beyond what is right or wrong—it is called love. Walking in love is right. Of course, we don’t compromise on important gospel truth, but Paul’s point concerning clean and unclean foods (which was relevant to his day) is a good example of a non-essential issue that should not cause division or unloving behavior in God’s household.
Clean and Unclean Foods
Paul boldly says he has a personal revelation from the Lord about this issue; he knows that food is neither clean nor unclean. In other words, foods, in and of themselves, are not sinful or sin-causing. Peter received this same revelation in Acts 10:9–16 in which he plainly heard: “Nothing is unclean if God declares it to be clean” (Acts 10:15).
Both Peter and Paul had truth on their side. They were right about this issue of clean and unclean foods, yet here Paul teaches us an important principle: it is more important to be loving than to be right.
The Ones for Whom the Messiah Gave His Life
Another aspect of this point is that pride destroys and love edifies. Love bears with others’ failings, weaknesses, differences. No, we never compromise on foundational truths, but we don’t use our knowledge or “freedoms” to hurt or hinder someone else’s faith. Jesus died for all. He is not putting up roadblocks or holding hoops for his people to jump through. He instead became the bridge to bring us to the Father. We need to do the same—be bridges, not stumbling blocks.
Relationships, Not Rules
Aren’t you so glad God doesn’t deal with you merely on the basis of rules? We always feel safe in his love and even his fatherly correction because we know it always and only comes from the place of true love. Let’s make it our aim to provide that same loving, safe place for the people in our lives. This will naturally happen as we prioritize relationship and love over rules and being right.
“So don’t give people the opportunity to slander what you know to be good. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of rules about food and drink, but is in the realm of the Holy Spirit, filled with righteousness, peace, and joy. Serving the Anointed One by walking in these kingdom realities pleases God and earns the respect of others.”Romans 14:16–18 TPT
The Kingdom Spirit Realm
The kingdom of God is in the realm of the Holy Spirit. Think about that. God’s kingdom is holy and also governed by the Holy Spirit. This means that we, as kingdom ambassadors, are Spirit-led and Spirit-governed. We don’t do as we please; we do what pleases the Spirit. As we do, we experience the righteousness, peace, and joy he brings: “Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities. For the sense and reason of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace” (Romans 8:5–6 TPT).
Earn the Respect of Others
Our opinions, pet doctrines, “sacred cows,” pride-filled rants, and holier-than-thou social media posts will probably never win over someone’s heart. But love can! Love melts the cold heart, not arguments. Make love preeminent. Make love the goal, and then you will never fall into the trap of actually becoming a stumbling block to someone else. Let this powerful verse in Philippians be your holy pursuit:
“Be free from pride-filled opinions, for they will only harm your cherished unity. Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves”Philippians 2:3 TPT
We Help Each Other Grow
Looking for the best ways to help and serve others is the worthy goal of true ministry. You are meant to be a conduit of God’s grace and blessing to others. Paul uses strong language here in these next verses to call us to account on this important issue, even admonishing us to “stop ruining the work of God” (Romans 14:20 TPT). It is time to evaluate whether we are building up or tearing down with our Christian service.
“So then, make it your top priority to live a life of peace with harmony in your relationships, eagerly seeking to strengthen and encourage one another. Stop ruining the work of God by insisting on your own opinions about food. You can eat anything you want, but it is wrong to deliberately cause someone to be offended over what you eat. Consider it an act of love to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything else that would cause a fellow believer to be offended or tempted to be weakened in his faith.”Romans 14:19–21 TPT
Help, Don’t Harm
We are to help each other, eagerly seeking to strengthen and encourage one another. Insisting on our own way and demanding that others adhere to our own opinions actually ruins the work of God. That is heavy. Paul says it plainly here: “Make it your top priority” to live in peace and harmony with others.
“Ruining the Work of God”
Can it be? Is it possible that in our attempt to zealously serve God, we can actually destroy and tear down the lives that God himself is building up? The answer is simply yes. Yes. Therefore, we must not “insist on your own opinions about food” (v. 20) and other contentious issues that aren’t essential salvation truths. Beloved, have your opinion and know what you believe. Hold on to your personal revelations—Peter and Paul did—but don’t use them as tools to tear down the work of God.
This was one of the “hot topics” of Paul’s day in the church. In this passage, Paul is actually referring to eating food sacrificed to idols. Some thought it sinful; others did not. It was a matter of opinion and of conscience. It was not a matter of essential doctrinal truth.
Don’t Force Your Opinions on Others
Oh, boy. Yes, he went there. Paul says it plainly and clearly: “Don’t impose your [personal convictions] on others” (v. 22). This seems like something we shouldn’t have to be told, but we do because— let’s just face it—we love our own opinions. Again, the standard for our behavior is love for others, and being loving will often require us to close our mouths and open our hearts.
“Keep the convictions you have about these matters between yourself and God, and don’t impose them upon others. You’ll be happy when you don’t judge yourself in doing what your conscience approves. But the one who has misgivings feels miserable if he eats meat, because he doubts and doesn’t eat in faith. For anything we do that doesn’t spring from faith is, by definition, sinful.”Romans 14:22–23 TPT
The Theology of Sin
This passage gives us an important definition of sin. What is sin? In this passage, sin is anything that doesn’t come from faith. If you can’t do something in faith, then don’t do it; it is sinful. We obey the Lord in these matters, period. However, we don’t impose our convictions on others, nor do we insist on personal liberties at the expense of hurting others. Again, love is the higher law. Love is the key to unity.
The above was adapted from Not Guilty: Be Free to Experience God’s Love, a devotional commentary on the book of Romans.
Shame. Failure. Sin. They leave mankind with a verdict: guilty. Have you been trusting in your works or feeling continually crushed by sin? Your story does not end there. Christ paid the price, and a new verdict has been rendered: not guilty! It’s time to relinquish every heavy burden of sin and guilt to God.
As you examine the powerful, freeing book of Romans through this devotional commentary and study guide, you will
• rediscover the joy of your salvation,
• surrender all self-righteousness,
• stop striving to please God or earn his love,
• return to the simplicity of the gospel of grace,
• silence the accusing voice of shame, and
• experience acceptance by God.
Understand the true grace of the gospel that releases God’s power and peace into your life. Click here to learn more.