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Truth, Freedom, and Conscience: Navigating Gray Areas Together (Romans 14:13-23)

Romans 14:13–23 – 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.


What does today’s passage say?

In today’s passage, Paul urges the Roman believers to stop judging one another over disputable personal convictions (vv. 13-15). Whether regarding dietary choices or sacred days, he reminds them that God alone evaluates each person based on their motive and conscience. So they should be careful not to cause spiritual harm over nonessential matters. Rather than major on minor issues, Paul challenges them to live seeking to honor the Lord over pleasing self (vv. 16-18). The kingdom of God is not about demanding personal rights but righteousness, peace and mutual joy among believers. Therefore, they should pursue building each other up instead of tearing down through criticism (vv. 19-23). They ought to follow their convictions but limit freedoms that could spiritually wound others. By fixing eyes on Christ in all things, unity and love triumph over divisions over opinions and preferences.


How can I apply Romans 14:13-23 to my life?

Today, Christians can easily get divided over issues that are not essential to the faith. We have convictions and personal standards that we feel strongly about. While truths like the divinity of Jesus, the authority of Scripture, and salvation by grace are non-negotiable basics, other issues are not so black and white in the Bible. Preferences about food, drink, holy days, worship styles, media choices, and more can vary drastically within the church. It’s tempting to equate our standards with godliness and look down on fellow believers who see things differently. But God’s Word challenges us to examine our motives. Are we majoring on minors and binding others to our personal convictions over disputable matters? Or do we allow room for diversity along with humility and charity? As the apostle Paul wrote to the divided Roman church, the goal is not rigid uniformity but building each other up in Christ. While truth matters, so does unity, peace, and love within the body. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:


Stop Judging Other Believers Based on Disputable Matters (vv. 13-15): As followers of Jesus, it can be tempting to judge our fellow believers over issues that are not clearly commanded in Scripture. Paul cautions the Roman church against judging one another for personal choices regarding food, special days, or other disputable practices. Though we may have convictions in these gray areas, we overstep when we impose those standards onto others as if our view is the only godly option. A community of mature believers allows room for diversity, distinguishing between essential doctrines and secondary issues of conscience. Harsh criticism over debatable preferences destroys unity and relationships rather than building up the body. If we nullify or wound a fellow believer over preferences like diet, are we acting in love? Each member of Christ’s church has freedom to decide for themselves before God on these matters. Our role is not to police others’ decisions but to ensure our own actions flow from faith-motivated obedience. Judgment belongs to the Lord alone (1 Corinthians 10:29-30Galatians 5:13Colossians 2:16).


Food for Thought: What personal standards do I tend to impose on other believers? How can I balance personal convictions with acceptance of diversity?


Live to Please the Lord Rather Than Yourself (vv. 16-18): We know that God calls us to honor him in all areas of our lives. But when it comes to disputable issues like dietary choices, it’s easy to slip into self-focus. Am I free to eat this food? Should I celebrate that holiday? Paul notes our tendency to get preoccupied pleading our own case—why my conviction is right and others are wrong. But walking in true kingdom freedom means shifting focus from self to God. Rather than obsessing over defending personal rights or preferences, our controlling desire must be living to please the Lord from the heart. If I partake in something, can I honestly say I’m doing it out of devotion for Christ? If I abstain, does my restriction truly flow from wanting to glorify God rather than self-righteousness? In either case, living by Kingdom priorities values conscience and community over individual rights. As we grow in spiritual maturity, disputable matters no longer divide but provide opportunities for mutual love and edification. Our focus widens from self to welcoming others as Christ Himself has welcomed us (Romans 15:1-31 Corinthians 10:312 Corinthians 5:9).


Food for Thought: Do my decisions in gray areas aim to please self or God? What does it look like to welcome other believers as Christ has welcomed me?


Build Up Other Believers Instead of Causing Them to Stumble (vv. 19-23): Christians should strive toward ideals of truth, righteousness, and peace. But when grey areas over matters of conscience arise among believers, these values can compete. Some elevate these to truth—believing their personal standards or theological interpretations as the “right” ones to hold others to. However, Paul points to a more excellent way: pursuing peace and mutual edification. Compromising essential doctrines erodes integrity. But for issues Scripture permits freedom on, we must major on building up one another in Christ rather than insisting on uniformity. Each believer must be fully convinced in their own mind before God. If personal freedoms in gray areas could negatively impact a weaker brother or the church’s witness, limiting liberty for the sake of unity cultivates maturity on both sides. With eyes fixed on furthering God’s eternal work in each heart, disputes over food or days quickly fade. Though differences do not simply disappear, we can redirect focus from self-interest to serving fellow members of Christ’s body in love (Ephesians 4:291 Thessalonians 5:111 Corinthians 8:9-13).


Food for Thought: What could I sacrifice or compromise to promote peace and edification amid secondary disputes? How can our church nurture conviction matched with compassion?


We still wrestle with the same tensions that faced the believers in Rome. Disputable matters threaten to divide us. Self-interest competes with love for others. Yet God calls each of us to extend the same grace He has freely given. Where Scripture clearly commands or forbids, we must stand firm in unity and conviction. But on issues where the Bible permits freedom, we have no right to impose personal standards onto others. Rather, we fix eyes on Jesus, allowing His selfless love to guide decisions of conscience. We lay down personal rights that might harm a brother’s faith. And we purpose to build each other up, not tear down over disagreements. God cares far more that Christ is proclaimed and that His children walk in love than about faultless uniformity on debatable issues. May humility and grace mark our lives as we strive to glorify Him together.


Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray that You would search my heart and reveal areas where I have judged others harshly over issues You allow freedom on. Create in me a spirit of humility to consider that I could be wrong in matters of personal conviction. Give me discernment to differentiate essential biblical truths from secondary preferences and opinions. I ask that You would help me extend grace and acceptance rather than criticism toward believers who see disputable issues differently than I do. Protect the unity of churches by steering us away from majoring on minors. Where my freedoms could negatively impact others, I pray You would help me limit my liberty for the sake of love. Above all, empower me to build up my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to point them toward You rather than make disputes over preferences stumbling blocks to faith.

I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.


Romans 14:19 – “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”


With His Blessings,Pastor Corby

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