“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17
We all encounter this situation at some point; our understanding of the Bible’s instruction is different from the understanding of our Christian brother or sister. This is the situational context that Paul is trying to address in Romans 14.
Some have used these verses to try and justify some form of situational obedience where we get to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. But let me make this very clear; Paul is not giving you or anyone else the right to decide for yourself what is right and wrong. He makes it very clear that we are sinful and, on our own, don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Our only hope of knowing how to live a righteous life is to submit to the teaching of scripture under the instruction and leading of the Holy Spirit.
It’s, however, inevitable that the understandings of sincere believers would at times be different. There are so many variables that come in to influence our understandings: how we define words, personal experiences, various cultural influences, etc.; that it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise.
When he gets to verse 17 the Apostle is trying to remind us that the forest of righteousness and faith is much bigger that the individual tree or shrub of specific actions. And striving to be a Spirit led support and influence for righteousness, and peace, and joy in the life of our brother is our first focus. The priority of our consideration then is first God, then your brother and then yourself.
So many times when it comes to matters of faith we become selfish, dictatorial and judgmental. We stop heeding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and give no thought to being respectful and sympathetic to others, and think only of what we think is right. This shouldn’t be our attitude. Listen to Paul in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” We simply cannot truly live the righteous life the Spirit is trying to teach us if we don’t have loving consideration for others. And this especially applies where our life of faith intersects with the faith of others.
Father, through your Spirit, teach me to be loving and righteous in my relationships with the rest of your children.