Romans 14:2-4, 12 One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. (3) Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. (4) Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand. . . . (12) So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Last month, even with all of the Dorian Tropical Storm coverage, I noticed a focus in the media on what Americans eat. Specifically, they are trying to get us to eat less meat because of so-called climate change. First it was the Democrats debating it (for 7 hours) on CNN, in which 7 of 10 Democrats were in favor of the US cutting back on meat intake (think future legislation, higher taxes on meat and farmers, more regulations, executive orders, etc). Then there were two articles, one in the New York Times and the other in the Washington Post advocating eating insects to help the environment. And then, I got an ad from Amazon featuring a book on, you guessed it, changing our eating habits for the sake of the environment. Since the author says this change begins at breakfast, and he is a Jewish vegetarian, I’m guessing he is advocating giving up pork: ham, bacon, and sausage, which are the American breakfast meats. The Progressive Marxists have tipped their hand. The vegans and environmentalists have joined forces (not that they were ever separate) to restrict what we eat using false climate change assertions to force their will. And essentially, by taking away our freedom to choose what we eat “for the good of the planet,” they are attempting to compel and guilt us to eat a diet equivalent to that of a third world country.
[Note: Not to mention a professor in Sweden is advocating for cannibalism to protect the environment. Putting the surplus population to a utilitarian use?]
So much of what the Progressive Marxists in society promote is contrary to Scripture, from abortion rights (murder), to pluralism (idolatry), to socialism (theft and other sins), to LGBTQ (sexual immorality), etc. Progressive Marxists are anti-Christ to the core. While trying to control what we eat may seemingly be a small thing, it is no less tyrannical because it is attempting to take away a God-given liberty. And make no mistake, this policy is being advanced by vegan ideology, therefore “controlled” today means “forbidden” tomorrow. Eating or not eating is not the issue. The issue is proscribing one to eat or not to eat when God has given us the liberty to do either.
We should all agree that only God can command the conscience. Whatever He commands, we are morally bound to do. Whatever He prohibits, we must avoid. There are explicit and sweeping commands in the Moral Law, such as the command against lying, whose application in most areas of our lives are plain and undeniable. However, in other areas, God has given us principles to apply to our decisions and activities. With sanctified wisdom each of us applies these principles. And so long as the application does not contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, the Christian has liberty of conscience before God in the exercise of his freedom.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he spends all of chapter 14 and part of chapter 15 dealing with Christian Liberty issues. Christian Liberty is a wonderful, yet dangerous gift. The very concept of Liberty assumes the right to abstain or partake of the activity in question. Therefore the use of one’s freedom, in such a case, may be appropriately applied in either direction. So long as the motivation of the heart is right and charity toward the brethren is maintained, no sin is committed. Any attempt to make a prohibition of such things as applicable to all people is to be condemned as legalism in the ecclesiastical realm (Col 2.16, 20-23 and 1 Tm 4.1-3), and tyrannical in the civil realm. Similarly, partaking of such things without discipline will result in sin and possibly spiritual enslavement or physical addiction ( see 1 Cor 6.9-12 and Eph 5.18). Thus, going beyond the teaching of Scripture in either direction is condemned.
It is to this situation that Paul wrote in Romans 14.1-15.7. On the one hand, Paul had to deal with stronger believers who were exercising their liberty but not being sensitive to their weaker brothers’ tender consciences. On the other hand, Paul had to deal with weaker brothers whose consciences would not allow them to partake but who were critical of those who did. He instructs the stronger brother not to hold the weaker brother in contempt and to defer his freedom for the good and edification of the weaker brother (Rom 14.3, 13-15, 19-21, and 15.1-3). Paul also rebukes the weaker brother for wrongly judging his brother by using man-made laws when it is God who will judge the labor of His servant (Rom 14.3-4 and 10-12).
Essentially, all of us should so desire to please our Lord that each of us should be craving to exhibit respect and charity toward our fellow believers as each opportunity arises (Rom 14.7-9, 15-20, 15.1-7; 1 Cor 10.23 and 31). In other words, whether one eats a certain diet or not, it really is, in the end, the responsibility of that person before God. Either action, partaking or abstaining, is to be commended as a proper application of Christian Liberty.
Since there are numerous issues of Christian Liberty, every believer, even the most mature one, will find himself, at some point, as the weaker brother. Thus, the designation “weaker brother” is not a comprehensive label of one’s overall maturity in Christ, but a description of one’s position on an individual issue. Thus, in areas of Liberty, any prohibition applied to oneself that becomes a moral issue of conscience automatically becomes a “weaker brother” issue. A weaker brother’s problem is that he lacks faith (Rom 14.1). Being a weaker brother is not technically a sin. On the contrary, Paul states that going against one’s sensitive conscience is a sin (Rom 14.14 and 23). However, being a weaker brother is not a condition in which a maturing believer should desire to remain. And when a weaker brother attempts to bind the conscience of another brother over a matter of Christian Liberty, the weaker brother is being legalistic in his application of Christian principles.
The stronger brother, by contrast, because of his stronger faith on an issue, has an immense responsibility to his fellow believers. To the weaker brother, he must not disparage his lack of faith, nor place a stumbling block in his path (Rom 14.13-15). And to those who abstain in general, he must be careful not to flaunt his freedom to partake. Therefore, the question for the stronger brother is not whether to partake, but when to partake and how openly he proclaims this freedom. While the stronger brother has nothing for which to apologize by reason of his faith (Rom 14.16 and 1 Cor 10.29-30), his maturity on this issue must be yoked with discretion and discernment (Rom 14.20-22 and Phil 1.9-11; see also Pr 3.21 and 8.12, where wisdom is paired with discretion, and Pr 2.2-3 where wisdom is paired with discernment). Flaunting one’s liberty exposes an imprudent heart, which can lead weaker brothers and covenant children into taking steps for which they are not ready (i.e. a stumbling block).
To sum up this matter of Liberty, “the kingdom of God is not [about] eating and drinking,” but about “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14.17). The issue of whether we abstain from something or not is ancillary to the primary goal–the glory of God (1 Cor 10.31). We achieve this goal by looking not to the pleasing of ourselves, but to the pursuit of peace and edification of others (Rom 14.15-19, 15.1-2 and 1 Cor 10.23-24). In this way, we imitate Christ (Rom 14.7-9, 15.1-7 and 1 Cor 10.31-11.1). However, we also know that receiving pleasure from God’s good gifts glorifies Him in our joy and thanksgiving for them (Ps 104.15; Rom 14.6, 16-17 and 1 Cor 10.30-31). God calls us to unity in these matters. This unity is not over whether to abstain or not, but a unity by an acceptance of each other to His glory (Rom 15.1-7). Thereby, our witness to others will be effective that unbelievers might be saved (1 Cor 10.31-33).
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul commands believers to pray for the rulers over us, so “that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tm 2.1-2). While the command to pray still stands, it seems to be more and more difficult with each passing day to live that “tranquil and quiet life.” The Progressive Marxists will not stop in their plans until they completely have their way. It is who they are. Nevertheless we must be diligent to pray. We must be diligent to confess our sins of apathy and dereliction of duty to each other and to our culture. And we must keep praying ever more fervently, all the while looking for ways to make a difference for Christ and His Kingdom in the culture around us.
Summary of Principles
The previous discussion may be charted in the following way:
Those who apply prohibition to all are legalistic [Col 2.16, 20-23 and 1 Tm 4.1-3]
Those who apply prohibition to self are weaker brothers [Rom 14-15]
Those who choose to abstain exercise liberty [1 Cor 6.12, 10.23, and 31-33]
Those who choose not to abstain exercise liberty [Rom 14.6; 1 Cor 10.30-31 and 1 Tm 4.3-4]
Those who choose to partake without sensitivity become stumbling blocks [Rom 14-15]
Those who choose to partake without discipline become enslaved [Pr 20.1; 1 Cor 6.9-12 and Rom 13.13]