Romans 14:1-12
Living As The Lord's

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Re-Translated In April 2000

1.  This is what the Lord said:

"Don't judge anyone so that you won't be judged.  You will be judged by the judgment you judge with, you will be measured by the measurement you measure with.  While you can see saw dust in the eyes of your brothers, why don't you notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say, 'Please let me take the saw dust out of your eye?'  Isn't there a log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first remove the log from our own eye.  If you do that, you will be able to see clearly and can take out the saw dust from your brothers' eyes," (Matthew 7:1-5).

2.  A series of sermons from the Lord Jesus, which we call The Sermon On The Mount which Matthew has recorded, was not an ethical lecture for the world in general.  Those whom Matthew first had in mind were not those of the world in general but the Lord's disciples.  It was the church he had in mind.  Therefore, before Matthew writes these words from the Lord, he emphasized in his writing that "Jesus saw the multitude and ascended a mountain.  When he sat down, the disciples went up to him," (5:1).  Thus, it is to the Lord's disciples first that he commands "Do not pass judgment on others."  When it comes to the problem of being judgmental, it is not in the world so much as it is in the church more than anywhere else.  It is the believer, more than anyone else, who doesn't notice that he or she has a log in his or her eyes.

3.  We understand this even in reading the Pauline epistle I read you earlier.  "As for the person who eats, he should not scorn the person who won't.  Also, for the person who does not eat, he must not condemn the person who does," (Romans 14:3).  Thus, what he couldn't avoid writing is none other than the fact that if one is a person who scorns others in matters of eating meat or not eating it, then you are also a person who is judgmental.  It's a message for the church.  Church people shouldn't think it doesn't apply to them.  Even in our church it happens enough.  It may actually be something we are experiencing first hand.  Today again I would like for us to listen to what has been written here in this passage as a word for us personally.

The Weak Or The Strong In Faith

4.  To begin, let's turn our attention over to the special set of circumstances spoken about here.  "There are some people who believe you are allowed to eat anything, but the weak eat only vegetables," (verse two), says the text.  It says we have some who will eat meat and some who won't.  Please look at verse five.  "If there is one person holding a certain day in higher regard than another, there is also another person thinking of each and every day as the same," (verse five).  Do we eat meat or not, or, do we observe special days or not?  We understand that this is connected specifically to the faith life and it has provoked arguing.

5.  We don't understand all too well who these people were who "ate only vegetables" or "held certain days in high regard."  In The First Epistle To The Corinthian Disciples we find people who avoided eating meat that had been offered to idols, (First Corinthians chapter eight).  Generally the meat used for food which went to market had been offered up, in most cases once, to an idol; such were the circumstances back then.  Thus, there were some people who refused any kind of meat diet so as not to unwittingly eat of such meat.  There might have been some like that in the church at Rome as well.  Or there might have been a philosophy of abstinence stemming from some trend in the thinking of that day or possibly some other religious reason.

6.  Anyway, such persons were called "weak in faith."  It seems that even Paul acknowledged to a degree such a way of describing people.  It might sound strange that disciplined people who eat only vegetables and honor special days are called "weak in faith."  But, the reason Paul approved calling them that is that their abstinence came from sources extraneous to the faith.

7.  It certainly is often so that even still after a person becomes a believer he or she will carry some baggage of things he or she once learned before.  It might be the education they got in their childhood.  Or it might be the influence of the environment they were raised in.  It might be superstitious fears implanted on them from the people around them.  It might be from the mood of the times.  Their way of feeling about things varies according to the [baggage] they have.  To one person it is trivial, but to another it seems vital to life.  One person can't get enough of it and the other can't stand it.

8.  Such baggage from the past gets brought into our faith life.  Hence, what is essentially not important for our faith life acts like it is important.  Some don't make much out of whether one should or should not eat meat.  But, for another person it is an important matter.  That is where judging one another comes in.  An eating person scorns a non eating person.  A non eating person condemns an eating person.  Don't we feel like that is all too familiar to us?

9.  Of course, Paul does not mean by the words "Don't condemn others" that nobody is to care what anyone else does.  There are times when it does have some bearing on the basics of the faith life.  There are times when it does substantially affect the salvation of a person.  There are times it definitely affects one's relationship with God.  In contrast to this Paul himself says, "[there are times when] yes means yes and no means no."

10.  For example, in regards to those who claim "You can't be saved unless you undertake circumcision or keep the law of Moses" he goes so far as to say, "Let whoever brings a gospel that goes against what you received be accursed," (Galatians 1:9).  In regards to those instructors who would lead others astray by wrong doctrines, he even said, "Be careful of those dogs.  Look out for those wicked workers," (Philippians 3:2).  In regards to those who would not repent of their sexual immorality, he does not say things like "Let them live that way.  Don't condemn them for that."  He says, "Even though I am separated from you in body, I am with you in spirit, and just as if I were present with you right now, I have already passed judgment on the person who did this such a thing," (First Corinthians 5:3).  Because [to commit] an indecent act is to sin against the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.

11.  We should make strict judgments in the essentially important matters in a relationship with God. But yet,  [I ask you to] give this some thought:  The judging of each other that arises among us most oftenly does not involve that kind of situation.  While leaving the important stuff half done, there is, on the other hand, an overwhelmingly numerous amount of people judging each other based on their perceptions and understandings which they have dragged along from their past.  In most cases we are arguing at the level of whether to eat meat or not.

Either Way [Is] The Lord's

12.  Therefore, we must incline our ears carefully to what has been written here.  "The eating person should not despise the one who doesn't eat, and the person who doesn't eat should not condemn the person who eats."  Why is this?  The reason for this is obvious.  "Because God has accepted them like they are."

13.  Whenever we have an urge to pass judgment on someone or want to look down on them, we need to repeat these words within our hearts:  "Because God has accepted them like they are."  That God has accepted them means they are God's.  [A person's] owner is none other than the Lord God.  We can't wear the face of an owner over anyone.  If we respect their [real] owner God, we have to respect other Christians as servants of the same master and owner.  If we don't, we go beyond our role.  That's why Paul said the following: "Who in the world are you, passing judgment on another person's servants?," (verse four).  If you pass judgment on another person's servants, the owner of those servants might say, "What you're doing is none of your business."  When we pass judgment on someone else, in most cases it is none of our business.  Usually whenever we are irresponsible as to the really important stuff in the area of eternal life, what we are involved in is mostly none of our business.

14.  What's more, if we carefully give it some thought, in the times we are only judging someone else, we really don't have any serious ties to him or her.  At that time the one who truly has business with [that person] is the Lord himself.  And actually it is up to the Lord whether his servants stand or fall.  It's not up to us or them.  As their master he himself is filled with love and loyalty above all others.  People might be disloyal, but he is true.  Therefore, Paul says, "However, his servants stand; for, the Lord is able to make him stand," (verse four).  Lacking in loyalty, it is not our puny little words of judgment that truly make a person stand.  It is the Lord himself who makes a person stand.

15.  Furthermore, we should not forget that not only "another person's servants" but we ourselves also are "the Lord's."  [We should not forget this] because our behaviors affect not only how we see someone else but how we see our own selves.

16.  Whether we are a person who judges others or we are a person who is judged by others Paul is speaking on all of us and who we are fundamentally.  We all are "the Lord's."  Since that is so, it is more important for us to ask "For whom are you doing [what you're doing]?" rather than [being judgmental asking] "What are you doing?"  This is because since we belong to the Lord, whatever it is we do first has its meaning by its being for the Lord.  The Lord is not so much concerned about behaviors and their consequences.  He looks on their motives.  Thus, Paul continues his speech as follows:  "A person who honors a particular day does it for the Lord.  A person who eats does it for the Lord.  Because he gives God thanks.  Also, the person who does not eat does it for the Lord.  And he also gives thanks to God," (verse six).  Whether one eats or not, if one does it for the Lord, why should we care?

17.  We get taken in too much by circumstantial things under our noses and by phenomena that appear to our eyes.  I do this, but he doesn't.  I have stopped doing it, but she doesn't care and keeps on.  We are always and for ever comparing our actions with those of another and we live our lives caught up in those comparisons.  But, what the other guy is up to is not what matters most.  It is whether [there is] a solid backbone steadily running through our lives.  [You know what matters most] is this matter of a backbone of "being the Lord's" running deep [in us].

18.  This matter of "being the Lord's" is not about what particular things we do or don't do, or about abstaining from something in particular or not.  It is about being able to say with Paul that "There is not one person among us who lives or dies for his own self.  If we live we live for the Lord and if we die we die for the Lord.  Consequently, whether we live or whether we die we are the Lord's," (verses seven and eight).

19.  The reason we can say that is the Lord suffered hanging on the cross, shed his blood and died, and also defeated death and rose up from the dead.  It is as Paul so said, "For this reason Christ died and lived so that he would be Lord for both the dead and the living," (verse nine).  Before the Lord who died on the cross and rose again from the dead, we must keep repeating, "If we live we live for the Lord, if we die we die for the Lord."  We should repeat these words over and over again.  If we do that, we would definitely be too embarrassed to argue at the dimension of eating or not eating.

20.  Moreover, the time is coming when we will know in a true sense that that is shameful and stupid.  Because ultimately we, as the Lord's, will come to stand at the judgment seat of God.  It won't be whether we ate or didn't eat that we will be held accountable for there.  We will be questioned as to whether we belong to the Lord or not.  We will be questioned as to how we lived as the Lord's [people].  At the Lord's judgment seat we won't be able to say a thing about anyone else.  Presently we might be turning our attention from our own affairs and talking about other people.  But, a time is coming when we won't be able to talk like that.  We must be careful in this regard.  That hour will surely come.  "Each one of us, one by one will speak to God about ourselves," (verse twelve).

21.  Then and there we'll know that it is really me and you who deserve to be judged by the righteous judge.  And we will also know that it is me and you, and not somebody else, in need of forgiveness and mercy.  Then we will look at the savior from his seat of judgment, the savior who died and rose again for me and for you.  And though we might be judgmental of one another now, [yet] we have become the Lord's by our savior, and we will at that time be there bending our knees before the Lord together and praising God with those same tongues.

 
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