Romans 14:1-4 - I wonder, how would broader Christianity be different if we simply followed verse 1: "As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions."
Verse 4 reminds us that we each must stand before God. What we believe is important in the faith, outside of the core of the gospel (yea, I know), we should explain, even try to persuade (while open to being persuaded), but ultimately it's between the person and God as to whether he stands or not.
But look in verse 4 - who make them able to stand? It doesn't say that they are able to stand before the Lord, rather that the Lord will make them able to stand.
Romans 14:8 - "For 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." (emphasis mine) Doug gave a great message this week on living by the spirit, framing it in terms of God owning us. (Look for it here, hopefully soon.) This reminds me of that concept, not only in the terms of ownership or even slavery and submission, which are true, but even more so in terms of belonging. We belong to Him that created it all, who is over all and in all. We are His.
Amen and hallelujah.
One could argue that that truth is not the point of the passage, and I guess they'd be right. I'd argue, however, that it's the point that underscores the truth of the passage. We belong to God, we are His, so we have no standing to judge each other. I often remind my girls, when they want to correct their sisters, that they are not the parent. Here Paul is reminding us, when we want to correct and judge other Christians, that we are not the master. It is not our place to police the fellowship.
Romans 14:13-23 - A case could be made here that Paul is teaching a DIY Christianity. If it's acceptable to you, it's acceptable, if it violates your conscience, it's sin. Certainly, not everything is good or righteous, yet I have a feeling for most of us, we restrict more than God would. Yet, here the Bible teaches us that even though it's OK for another, it may not be OK for us. It's hard for us to fathom, isn't it? We want black and white, dos and don'ts, clear cut and simple.
If we think about it, it makes sense, Even if we see other we respect doing something, if we cannot imagine God accepting it, how can we do it? We should seek understanding from them and provide them with our own convictions, but in the end we both must stand before God.
Such an open ended, even vague, faith is unsettling, but that's what God has given us. Who are we to argue?