January 18 – God’s Will – God’s will and freedom

Read Romans 14:1-23

In these twenty-three verses, there is much more at stake than a first-century conflict between vegetarians and carnivores.  No, this has everything to do with the proper use of or restriction of freedom.

But let’s understand their context first.  Some of the “weak believers” had been so influenced by their past exposure to Old Testament laws of regarding “clean” foods, that they chose a vegetarian diet in order not to violate the law.  Other “weak believers” had been so influenced by their past exposure to pagan sacrifices and worship that they abstained from meat just so they would avoid inadvertently eating meat offered to idols.  Unfortunately, these people did not understand that they had been set free from those demands of the law.  They did not realize that there are no real gods behind the idols.

In some ways, then, their abstinence from eating meat was unnecessary.  Even though they didn’t know it, they had the freedom to enjoy a hamburger.

Meanwhile, others in the church understood that God’s will gave them latitude in this area.  They enjoyed meat.

Over time, this use of freedom and lack of understanding of freedom created tension.  Those who ate meat looked down on those who abstained . . . and vice versa!  But rather than sternly correcting the abstainers or coming to the defense of the eaters, Paul encourages them to be sensitive to each other.  That is an interesting thought.  Although God’s will allowed them latitude to continue to indulge, there was another principle at work.  Both were to pursue peace.

This can be a very difficult thing.  Depending on your background and understanding, it can be hard to recognize freedom . . . or if you enjoy freedom, you may find it difficult to grasp how others could have a more restrictive view.  In these areas of freedom, there is something bigger at stake than whether or not you personally choose to restrict or enjoy the freedom.  There is the impact that your decision has on others in the body of Christ!  In those areas, you must choose wisely and pursue peace.

Steve Kern

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