Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.” –
You may read this passage here: Romans 14:1-12.
God is able
Paul’s writing to the early Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome certainly reflects this belief. Although God was—and is—“able”, effort from every believer would be needed. In an arena immersed in vast cultural and societal differences Paul offered some guidelines to help bring about this seemingly impossible task: unity in diversity.
Principle # 1: Judgment is God’s Right, Not Man’s
“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand,” (vs. 4). Paul made it clear: Observing or not observing special days and/or food laws—the early church’s main divisive issues—wasn’t sin to God, so long as one’s conscience was clear. Rather, the flaunting and flouting of other believers’ convictions was the culprit. Convictions vary. God has accepted both the “weak” and “strong” servant by grace. Equal desire to honor God may be found in both the observer and nonobserver of special days and food laws (vs. 6).
“None of us lives to himself alone” (vs. 7)
Shepherd’s Notes comments: “This has been understood in the sense of John Donne’s statement, ‘No man is an island.’ Paul’s statement, however, was not a sociological observation regarding the oneness of the human race. What he said is that all believers live out their lives accountable to God. Decisions about such matters as special days and eating meat are not made in isolation, but in accordance with the will of God as understood by the individual.”
Judgment belongs to God alone. And we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (vs. 10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Individuals should act according to their own conviction in trivial gray areas that are unclear in the Bible, without passing judgment on those with different convictions. We can—and should—rub shoulders with other believers without judging in these areas. If something offends a brother or sister, then we should abstain from that activity in their presence.
Are there strained relationships in your church? How might this principle help bring the unity God desires?