This post will be a little bit of me spewing out stream-of-thought ramblings. Some of this stuff may be painfully obvious to you.
Romans 14 (ESV)
13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother… 15 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.
I’ve always taken this passage to mean that it is ok for me to drink or smoke or eat meat as long as the people that I’m doing it around don’t struggle with the sin of alcohol abuse, smoking addiction, or meat-madness (I couldn’t think of a specific sin for that one, so I invented “meat-madness”). Maybe its “new eyes” or maybe its the fact that I’ve always read this verse in NKJV and now I’m reading an ESV… but I got a better grasp on these verses when I just read them.
Paul goes on to say:
16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
I just realized that this is actually telling us to not drink or smoke or eat meat around people that think that those things are a sin. If the people that you are in close community with think that something you do is a sin, you are to treat it like it is a sin too. If a good friend of mine who I am in a serious, spiritual relationship with thinks that drinking is a sin, I shouldn’t drink. If my wife thinks that eating meat is a sin, I shouldn’t eat meat.
When Paul says in verse 16: “Do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil” he is saying “if there are people around you that think its evil, you should treat it like it is”. He later says in verse 20: “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.”
For some reason that was really profound for me.
I’ve known Christians in the past (I may have even done this) that have done things like cursing, drinking, or smoking to simply make a point. Is a feeling of superiority really worth bringing someone else to anger and causing them to sin? Absolutely not!