Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A., In Romans chapters 14 and 15, we are told that we have liberty in Christ but we are not to use that liberty when it might cause a brother or sister in the Lord to stumble. That makes sense to me in general, however, how far do we go with it? If a weaker brother thinks it’s wrong to eat meat, am I to turn vegetarian when we go out for lunch or dinner? Shouldn’t a mature believer instruct a young, and perhaps weaker, believer in what is biblical and what isn’t?”
Dave: Well, Tom, it raises a good question. Paul says, “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no meat so long as the earth stands.” On the other hand, maybe I could reason with my brother and help him not to be offended, and I think we have a basis from Scripture. So, I think what Paul is saying, we have to be careful not to carry it to an extreme. In other words, let’s not let the person who, well, for example, some people say you shouldn’t have a beard, Tom, so we’re going to shave our beards. Well, that shaving is really a bother for me, so it does take time. Other people, I mean if you want to live among the, let’s say the Amish, you’ve got to ride in buggies, for some of them. Some of them allow rubber-tired buggies and other ones say, No, you can’t have any rubber on the wheels, they’ve got to be just metal. And then, you can tell some of them, because there are no electrical wires going into their farms—they insist that you should use kerosene lamps, or whatever.
So, I have to have some reasonableness about this, too. Am I going to just take the most extreme views and I don’t want to offend anyone? I think Paul is saying, I don’t want to put myself, my interests, my comfort, above someone else. On the other hand, I think I have to be reasonable about this.
Tom: It also seems to me, Dave, that, you know, as you said, was it Matthew:16:24? It deals with our attitude. We are to be other-directed, “Take up the cross and follow me,” Jesus said. We are to be directed, our hearts and minds, to the Lord and to the blessing and benefit of others, and I agree with you with what you said. But there are some trying to apply these things, almost turn to a form of legalism themselves. They have others dictating—weaker brothers—dictating their lives, and they are trying to conform…and I think this is where our questioner, where this person is coming from…They are thinking, do we let the weaker faith dictate and direct and our lives are now conformed to erroneous ideas that a brother or sister in the Lord may have?
Dave: Well, every brother and sister in the Lord doesn’t know everything that I eat or what I am doing at all times. So again I think, I invite someone over for dinner—they are vegetarians. I don’t think that I should offer them meat. I think that we could have a very healthy and wholesome and enjoyable dinner, vegetarian dinner.
Tom:Right, you’re thinking or their welfare.
Dave:So, let me do that, let me show kindness and concern, thoughtfulness for them. But that doesn’t mean that when they are not eating at our table I am going to continue to be a vegetarian. In fact, Paul says, if we go to Romans chapter 9, he says that we are not to judge one another. That’s part of it. So, if I’m going to be a real Christian, I’m going to have to help this person, not judge. He says (I’m sorry, Romans 14), Romans 14 verse 3, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.” So, this is a two-edged sword, Tom. Paul is speaking to both. He is speaking to the vegetarian: “Look, don’t judge this other person.” In fact it starts out, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” It even goes on, “One person esteems one day above another.” Some people want to keep the Sabbath. Well, it’s not biblical, but if you want to keep the Sabbath, go ahead. But even the Seventh-Day Adventists do not keep the Sabbath as the Jews kept the Sabbath.
I can remember when I grew up as a boy we weren’t allowed to play football or baseball on Sunday, couldn’t read the colored comics—my father hid them—of course, I knew where he hid them and when he wasn’t looking I got at them anyway. But that’s not keeping the Sabbath and furthermore—well, let me just say a word about that. Sunday is not the Sabbath; the Sabbath was not changed from Saturday to Sunday. We don’t keep the Saturday Sabbath because that was the old creation, and we are part of the new creation and Christ rose from the dead the first day of the new week. That’s why we meet together, and Paul says, “On the first day of the week, meet together to worship and to gather the gifts,” what you have put aside for the Lord and for the poor and so forth.
So, it’s a two way street. He is exhorting both sides to be compassionate with one another, patient with one another, and loving, and not to despise the others and not to force yourself on the others. On the other hand, Tom, he’s saying, “Look, I don’t want to stumble someone. If he thinks meat is wrong, then I’m not going to put meat before him when he comes to my house for dinner.”
Tom: Dave, let me finish up with, actually the first couple of verses in chapter 15 of Romans: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” I think this is the heart of what Paul is talking about. “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.” That’s where the reasonableness that you talked about—and it’s not a rationale that just gets what we want; it’s a reasonableness before God. We have to be men and women of faith and pleasing God in everything. Then it says, “For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
Dave: So, what is most important? My own comfort or my appetite? Or the welfare of someone else? On the other hand, I think I also have an obligation to try to deliver them from the legalism.
Tom: That’s their welfare, that’s a welfare and a concern for them in the Lord.