“Stop passing judgment on one another.” Romans 14:13
A glass of wine or not a glass of wine? To dance or not to dance? To work on Sunday or not to work on Sunday? To play cards or not to play cards? Or, in some places, to play dominoes or not to play dominoes?!
Let’s face it, we tend to feel strongly about our personal preferences regarding what Christians should and should not do. And, when others violate our spiritual preferences, the finger-pointing begins!
This is nothing new for Christians. Paul had to address the subject of preferences with the early believers in Rome who were troubled by a few issues. Believers who had been saved out of Judaism wondered what to do about the holy days prescribed in the Old Testament and the keeping of certain strict Sabbath rules. With their newfound freedom in Jesus, they didn’t know what to do with the ceremonial laws concerning “unclean” meat, not to mention the meat offered to idols in the pagan temples of their day.
In the face of conflicting preferences, note that Paul doesn’t take sides. Rather, he says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Paul continued, “He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6). Simply put, each of us should be convinced that what we are doing can be done to please the Lord.
Before you start thinking that this doesn’t apply to us because we don’t deal with these particular issues today, think again. The issues are different, but the lesson is the same: Each of us is individually accountable to God for our actions. Which, by the way, means that no one is accountable to—you guessed it—you for what they do or don’t do.
When we think that our point of view on personal preferences is the only point of view, we start finger-pointing and end up violating God’s call for us to reject a judgmental spirit. Often without even realizing it, we hold our preferences as standards of biblical spirituality. If thoughts like, He can’t be too serious about God—just look at his car! or, I can’t believe she watches that TV program! have ever crossed your mind, you know what I’m talking about!
So what’s the solution?
Take Paul’s exhortation to heart and “stop passing judgment on one another” (Romans 14:13). Some matters of personal preference are just that—personal, which means that it’s between that person and God. Paul called them “disputable matters” (Romans 14:1)—referring to issues that are not clearly outlined in Scripture as right or wrong. Rather than using our preferences as a spiritual whipping post, we must give room for others to express a different opinion and to love them as Jesus does. And, Paul tells us, “make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way” (Romans 14:13). When we know that something we feel is okay might endanger another’s walk with Jesus, then it’s up to us to love them enough to yield our preferences for the sake of their well-being.
And that’s the bottom line: love. It’s the glue that keeps us together when we face “disputable matters.” Next time you feel your grip tighten around a matter of personal preference, think about Romans 14:13. Stop passing judgment and make up your mind about what really matters—and hopefully love will win out every time!
- What are some personal preferences you feel strongly about? In what ways might you be inclined to judge others who don’t match up to your view?
- Sometimes it’s easy to get confused between non-negotiable biblical principles and our own personal convictions. Ask the Lord to help you carefully evaluate your personal preferences in light of Scripture.
- According to Paul’s practical instructions in Romans 14:13, what are two steps you can take to avoid conflicts concerning personal preferences?