The most popular series on WOTG in 2011 has been the five part exposition I did on Romans 14 as part of my Mishandled series entitled The Weaker Brother, The Weaker Brother part 2, Opinions, Stumbling block, and The Bigger Person. Seeing as I took five separate articles to get my point across then, I’m only going to add to the discussion here.
The biggest problem in Romans 14 is the misunderstanding of who is weak in the faith.
Weak Does Not Mean Immature
I think sometimes we equate age with maturity, knowledge with wisdom, and position with power. This is not and should not be the case. Paul is talking about something very specific in Romans 14. He mentions those who are weak in the faith, not those who are immature. Actually, each of the examples better reflect the older Jewish Christians than the young pagan converts. The Jews took issue with the gentiles who were able to eat anything and didn’t hold the significance of certain worship days.
Strong on the Law
Those who are weak in the faith are typically those who are strong in the Law. The older Jewish Christians had spent most of their life growing up under the law and it was hard to break away from the legalistic prejudices they had developed. Paul tells us in the first chapter of Romans to live by faith and not the Law. While this was difficult for the Jewish believers, this was easy for the pagan Christians. The new gentile believers had not grown up under the strict rule of the Law so they quickly acclimated to the doctrines of grace, but this does not mean that the gentiles didn’t have their own problems. They couldn’t understand their Jewish brothers. There was a clear disconnect between these two opposing cultures.
Likewise, many older Christians today have grown up under a Judeo-Christian culture which lends toward legalism. Younger Christians are growing up under a post-religious, secular culture that better reflects the gentile tendencies to antinomianism. Both are wrong to put their biases on the other believers.
Judging Others is Childish
The ones who are weak are characterized by those who are judging others. Paul says, “Who are you to Judge another’s servant?” When I was a child and my sisters did something to offend me, I wanted justice. I tattled because I childishly wanted to feel justified. Earlier in Romans 2 Paul tells us that judging is inexcusable because we are all found guilty under the Law. Those who judge their brothers are childishly putting parameters on others that they haven’t first placed on themselves.
This is a constant problem with the church. A great deal of Paul’s writings are addressing the inconsequential issues that the church is fighting over. We may never reach uniformity, but we must strive for unity. The second we neglect to consider our brothers and sisters we will discredit the saving work of the gospel.
If you want to continue reading about this series, check out the related articles.