Focal Passage: Romans 14:13-23
In the war on terror, many American soldiers have been injured or killed by devices or traps that were laid by enemy troops. Those traps were intentionally laid to trip up, ensnare or destroy the American forces. In this passage, Paul shows that believers can – knowingly or unknowingly – put stumbling blocks (Gr. ‘proskomma’) or snares/traps (Gr. ‘skandalon’) in front of their own brothers or sisters in Christ. How can this happen? By committing acts that, though not sinful in and of themselves, violate the conscience of their brother or sister, Christians can cause other Christians to stumble in their walk with Christ.
Immediately, our minds cry out, “Unfair! Why must I give up my freedom for the sake of my brother?” Paul gives a simple answer: love. He says demanding my spiritual “freedoms” at the expense of my brother’s conscience means I am “no longer walking in love.” In other words, if I walk in sacrificial, unconditional love for my brothers and sisters in Christ – particularly those who are less spiritually knowledgeable or mature – I will gladly sacrifice my “freedom” for their sakes. When I live this way, I am showing my willingness to consider the needs of others as important as my own needs (Phil. 2:3-4). Further, I am following Christ’s example of selfless, sacrificial love (Phil. 2:5-11).
The call of the gospel is to come and die to self and to find our life in Christ. We do not live for ourselves but for Christ, the one who died for us (2 Cor. 15:5). We do not demand our own rights for temporal pleasures or pursuits. Instead, our desire is that our lives reflect eternal values, including the building up of our brothers and sisters, even when such building up requires personal sacrifice on our part.
When believers walk in love and understanding toward one another, rather than demanding the full extent of their “freedom,” the fruit of kingdom living will be clearly evident – righteousness, peace and joy. Only the Spirit of God can empower the people of God to sacrifice in this way for the glory of God.