“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1, ESV)
Our time is a heated point in history. There are strong opinions about many things. This isn’t the first time this has happened in history. And it won’t be the last time.
But the people of the crucified Savior should not be people who weaponize truth against each other.
In the grand discussion about our opinions, we have neglected the larger concern about how to handle our opinions properly.
Powerful things need instructions. A lot of my people like to carry concealed weapons. Because of its power, they have to take a course on how to properly handle such a powerful thing in the face of adversity. When a heated situation arises, you want to be prepared so that you know how to handle the power entrusted to you.
We need a class on how to handle our opinions. We don’t want to discharge our opinions and destroy our brother and sisters.
The question Paul is begging in Romans 14 is, “what are you going to do with your opinions?” Unfortunately, we have often answered this question too late in the game. It is a maxim that technology usually moves faster than ethics. In other words, we first acquire a thing, and only after it’s been misused do we ask, “What is the best way to use this thing?”
Opinions, like all things a Christian possesses, should be used for the glory of Jesus and others’ good. Paul’s word for “opinions” in vs. 1 carries the idea of “reasoned ideas.” These are things we may have thought a lot about. Things we are probably passionate about. This is how ideas work. When we reason things out, we become passionate about them.
So during the Corona virus, we might rephrase Paul’s statement in Romans 14 this way.
“One person believes he is free to not wear a mask, while the weak person believes he is free to wear a mask. Let not the one who does not wear a mask despise the one who does, and let not the one who wears a mask pass judgment on the one who does not, for God has welcomed him.” (Romans 14:2–3, ESV)
We can change this up too. I’m not sure which one is weak, but it doesn’t matter for this argument’s sake. What matters is the principle, “If you think you are right, don’t weaponize your correctness against someone else.”
And the issues at stake are not inconsequential in Romans 14. There was disagreement over whether one should eat certain meats. The Jews who had put their faith in Christ were likely convinced that eating certain meats is still outlawed by God. While Gentiles, who had come to faith were convinced that eating meat was fine. These are two groups who are trying to follow God’s Word and have arrived at different opinions.
What Paul does is important — he demotes their opinions. He doesn’t call them unimportant. He does correct them in vs 14 (hint: its OK to eat meat). But it’s a throw off comment because it’s not the most important principle in play right now.
He employs a greater principle — hold your well reasoned opinions, but don’t hold them as more important than either the gospel or the brother/sister who is in front of you.
“For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15, ESV)
And then he puts things in perspective.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, ESV)
So we can change this in our situation. If your brother is set on edge because you don’t have on a mask, you will not be walking in love. You are using your rights — the right to not wear a mask — to severely wound the one for whom Christ died.
Now, this mindset is only possible if you move yourself from the seat of moral judgment, and recognize that it is Jesus’ responsibility to judge his servants. He has not ceded that to you, so don’t take up his right. You are not the master of your brothers and sisters.
“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. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”” (Romans 14:8–11, ESV)
We must remember that “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12, ESV)
This will help us to realize that everything cannot be equally important. We should not break fellowship over every aspect of politics (or even most political opinions). There is room in the church for people to have different opinions on economic policy, dealing with racial inequality, wearing masks, etc. Let’s quit elevating all of our opinions to the same level, and leave some room for people to disagree with your well-reasoned opinions.
It is possible to be right about something, but find yourself displeasing Jesus because of how you utilize that truth.
Truth that comes from the crucified Savior must be used in a cruciform way.
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:1–7, ESV)