Rom 14:13-15 “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.”
Paul’s instruction concerning judging one another is very simple: don’t do it. Where we might once have been tempted to do so, we now understand that we all belong to Christ. As such, we are His servants and we all answer to Him. If we truly understand this, then we should cease from judging His servants from this point forward.
Now comes the part that many of us would rather avoid. Paul says if we are going to judge something, then turn that judgment within. Instead of judging what others are doing, we need to take heed to our own words and deeds. We need to be very careful that we do not behave toward our brethren in a way that might cause them to stumble.
Our actions and words should never be such as to cause another to become apostate (to desert the faith, which is the Strong’s definition of stumblingblock). The phrase “an occasion to fall” carries the idea that we deliberately set a snare for our brother to cause him to abandon the faith. We are to be considerate of each other and our measure of faith at all times. Remember that Jesus said it was better for a man to have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea than to offend (entrap, ensnare, entice to sin or apostasy) one of His little ones.
Paul said as far as he was concerned there was nothing unclean of itself. This was not just his feeling about the matter, but the way he had been directed by our Lord and Savior. A note of caution here: Paul was not saying that sin is okay. Rather, he was pointing out that there were many things the law service deemed unfit that no longer applied in the life of grace he now lived.
As a teenager, I developed a great enjoyment of bowling. I liked going to the bowling alley with friends, and I enjoyed the light-hearted competitiveness. However, in my mother’s younger days, the bowling alley had the reputation of being a place where hooligans went to hang out, drink, and fight. To her, the bowling alley was an unclean place.
Since she esteemed it (and by association, bowling) to be unclean, to her it was. It would have been against her deep-held principles to frequent such a place. Thankfully, my father persuaded my mother to go with me one time and see for herself what it was like. She discovered that the past stigma was no longer true, and we learned to enjoy this activity as a family over the years.
The point of this little story was not to endorse bowling alleys. As long as this was an unclean place to my mother, she would not (nor should she) go. Knowing that this was an unclean place to my mother in the flesh and sister in Christ, I would have grieved her if I continued to go there. It would not have been charitable of me to cause my mother such distress over something as inconsequential as going to the bowling alley.
We have great liberty in Christ, but that liberty does not extend to causing our brothers and sisters to stumble. If we are truly charitable to our brethren, then we will have no desire to offend them with our meat (regardless of how lawful it might be for us). There are many things in life that we might have the liberty to enjoy that are not necessary for our joy and peace, especially if it is going to grieve our brother. Rather than judge our brother, let us judge our own walk in the light of being an encouragement and not a stumblingblock.
May we walk modestly before the Lord and esteem others better than ourselves (Php 2:3)!