Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Romans 14:1-3
Who Is My Weaker Brother?
My weaker brother is not necessarily who I thought it was. I was in fact surprised to discover that not infrequently this weaker brother is me! The person weak in faith that Paul is describing is not the one who lacks faith, but rather the one who errantly exercises the faith he has been given ~and~ attempts to impose their personal convictions on others. In today’s vernacular, we might call these folks legalists.
These guys (in Paul’s day) abstained from eating the meat being sold in the marketplace because it had been sacrificed to idols. They of course wanted to lay their vegetarian rap on everyone else because, they concluded, God would approve. The irony is that when a non-legalist is outwardly opposed to the yak of a legalist; to the point of controversy, the non-legalist is just as offensive as the legalist was initially. For this reason, God would say, “Let the brother be.”
Paul has effectively told us that God does not care about these matters. Christians are to accept each other and dismiss those matters that do not pertain to sin and the Biblical essentials of our faith. Whether it is the food or beverages we consume, the day we choose to worship, or any other inconsequential thing, tolerate your brother and avoid conflict. St Augustine summed it up pretty well when he said.
In All Things,
…For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Romans 14:17-18
It doesn’t get much clear than that. Is God interested in what we eat, what we drink, or when and where we worship? No, but obviously let us not sin in our liberty. What is God into? Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Want to be acceptable to God and approved by men? Then let these three things be our focus in Christ’s Holy name.