Passionately Pursuing Peace

■ Romans 14:13-23

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.
15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.
16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

■ Reflection

▲ Do Not Be a Stumbling Block (14:13–18)
While Paul affirms those who are convinced of their gospel-driven right to eat and drink anything without restriction, he uses strong language to rebuke those who flaunt this freedom at the expense of others. We must never behave in a way that might cause a fellow believer to be discouraged and question their faith, no matter how confident we are of our own convictions. It does not honor God to exercise our freedoms if it damages relationships and destroys the faith of others. What matters is how we love one another and find joy in the Spirit who grants us fellowship. When we take special care to promote peace with our words and actions, we bless our brothers and sisters in Christ and also please our Father in heaven.

How have you seen yourself or others stumble as a result of disagreements over nonessential issues? How is God calling you to promote peace within your local church?

▲ Make Every Effort (14:19–23)
The command to “make every effort” to build one another up is a lofty expectation. It requires us to be perpetually mindful of every person in our community and what their conscience permits. It means recognizing that there are times we must hold our tongue even if we do not agree with a fellow believer. If there is even the slightest possibility that a certain action will cause a brother or sister to stumble, we should stop ourselves for their sake. Furthermore, in our individual spiritual lives, we must ask God to cultivate our consciences as we discern principles from the Bible and apply the gospel to our daily choices and actions, for to violate our conscience would be an act of sin.

How can you grow to become more mindful and considerate of others and their different expressions of faith? How has following your conscience prevented you from falling into sin?

■ Prayer
Dear God, open my eyes so that I might consider others and put their needs before mine. Help me to promote peace and never cause others to stumble. Please use me to build up my local church. In Jesus’ name, amen.