Romans14:13-23 “Actions by Love”

The Pastor of the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas, Max Lucado, is the author of many best sellers that are loved by both children and adults.  In his book, The Special Love, he tells about this episode.  His wife’s name was Denalyn.  Denalyn had a habit.  That was when she parked the car in the garage, she would park in the middle of the garage.  Therefore, when her husband, Max, opened the garage door, there were times when his space was about half taken. Her husband, Max, who was gentle and kind would at times like this casually drop a hint, “Someone’s car is sitting in the middle of the garage.”  In Japan no one can understand this hint, but in America this hint is understood. One day, Max said this in a stronger voice, and from that day on the wife was very careful how she parked.

              One day her daughter asked the mother, “Mom, why don’t you park in the middle of the garage?”  The wife answered, “It doesn’t bother me, but your father doesn’t like me parking there. What your father doesn’t like, I don’t like.”


              Even if something doesn’t bother you, but the other person doesn’t like it, then you don’t do it.  That is good manners. It is becoming like Christ.


              Today’s passage is dealing with this problem.  In other words, especially those who have a strong faith are asked to be considerate of those who are not strong and not to be a stumbling block for them. Today I would like to talk about 3 points of this.




I.               The love of being considerate (vs. 13-16)


First let’s look at verses 13 to 16.


In the passage before this Paul taught that we are not to judge each other, but instead accept each other. In today’s passage Paul is asking that we decide to not be a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters and that those who have a strong faith decide to be considerate.  In verse 14 Paul says, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself.” The reason Paul mentions unclean food is that he is tying this passage together to the passage before it.  There were some people called strong people who were convinced like Paul “that nothing is unclean in itself.” (14) However, there were also some people who didn’t think that way.  Those people thought that like it says in the Old Testament in Lev. 11, there are “clean animals” and “unclean animals” and to eat unclean animals is sin.  Perhaps this may have had to do also with the problem of meat that had been sacrificed to idols which is written about in I Cor. chapters 8 to 10.  They thought that to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols is to associate with idols and that they would become unclean. Either reason, there were Christians who for religious reasons, did not eat such food.  Paul called such people, those of weak faith.  Their faith was not weak, but he called them weak because it was easy for them to stumble over such issues.  Among Christians there are such weak people, and those who don’t worry about what they eat, in other words, people of strong faith.


Paul was convinced “that nothing is unclean in itself.” (14) However, for those who think it is unclean, it is unclean.  By this point, it can be said that Paul belonged to the people of strong faith.  Even so he said to those of strong faith, “Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” (13) The reason for saying that is “if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” (15) In the case of the earlier example of Max Lucado, for the wife parking in the middle of the garage was not something that bothered her, but it really bothered her husband, Max.  If Max didn’t like it, then she thought that she didn’t like it either.  This is being thoughtful. This is good manners.  This is having a love that shows consideration.


The principle that Paul is teaching here is that in the church those with a strong faith must be considerate to those who have a weak faith. This principle is very important. The unity of the church should always be kept by those who are thought to be strong conceding and compromising.                    . 


The American pastor, Charles Swindol, said that the things that God has made               are in themselves good and we have the right to fully enjoy the things God has made. However, in the case of a person whose faith has not matured and it is a stumbling block, then we must have self control over our rights.  When it is necessary to do so, love command us to put limits on our freedom. When by the use of Christian freedom there is a fear of damaging God’s work, we need to have the ability to show real love by using discretion and not using our freedom.


According to Romans 15:3, “even Christ did not please himself.” Jesus also controlled his rights. More correctly said, he gave up his rights.  Jesus “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8) When Jesus was put on the cross, the crowds that were watching made fun of him saying that if he was the savior, to save himself, but Jesus didn’t do that. That wasn’t because he couldn’t do that. If he wanted to, he could have flown down from the cross, and fought with the people that were saying such things and thrown them in hell.  However, Jesus didn’t do such a thing. That was because if he had of, God’s words that Jesus must be put on the cross and die would not have been fulfilled.  Jesus experienced what no one ever has of being separated from God, judged by God, and so that those who believe in Him will have eternal live He chose the road of death on the cross. In other words, that Jesus died on the cross is for our good. Jesus didn’t please himself, but he thought about what was best for us, for our profit, and for our good.  This is what a person that bases his actions upon love is like.  In other words, he doesn’t base his actions upon his thinking. He thinks about the person who is weak in faith and bases his actions upon what is good for the weak person. That is because the weak person too is “someone for whom Christ died.” (15) Therefore, if that person is destroyed by “your eating” (15) then you can not say that you are acting out of love.     




II.             The essentials are the important things (vs. 17-19)


Secondly, please look at verses 17-19. The reason we should be considerate of those whose faith is weak is because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (18)


Here Paul has a strong conviction about what the essentials of the church are.  The essentials of the church are not eating and drinking, but “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (18)  Righteousness is having a right relationship with God.  In other words, the peace and joy that we receive through the Gospel of Christ enables us to have a right relationship with God which is the core of the church, the essence of the church. What we are going to eat, what we are going to drink are not the essentials. If that is the case even though there are many different opinions about eating and drinking, that really isn’t an important issue.  There are times when we must concede and compromise. If the church has the wrong standard of values and judgment in what are the essentials and what aren’t, the church will become confused.  The church often has fights occur over such issues. The first problem that the first church experienced was over food. 


However, “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (18) These are the essentials of the church.  We must not depart from the essentials or give in to other thinking.  However, regarding nonessential things we should try as hard as we can to be polite, and patiently deal with the other person, but sometimes it is necessary that we have a huge heart that concedes to the other person.






III.           A life by faith (vs. 20-23)


The third point is to base your actions upon the convictions of your faith.  Please look at verses 20 to 23.


Paul’s conviction about food was that “nothing is unclean in itself.” (14)  However, if by food another believer’s heart is hurt, then it can’t be said that your actions are out of love. It will be destroying “someone for whom Christ died” (15) by food. Therefore, it is necessary to concede to nonessential matters.  On the contrary, what about if you thought that you must not eat, but ate it because someone else persuaded you to do so? If you are convinced that to eat is right and you ate it then there is no problem. However, if that is not the case then your conscious will bother you.  An important thing for Christians is to live with nothing in our heart that will cause our conscious to bother us.  If we think we should not eat it, and have doubts in our hearts as we are eating it, then this act did not come from faith so we will be condemned for our sin.  “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (23) Each one of us before God so that our conscious does not bother us, must judge and take action according to the convictions of our faith.  This is what Paul is saying in this passage. 


Here is talking about whether a person should eat and drink for religious reasons.  In other words, this is dealing with detailed issues on a personal level not with the order of the church as a whole. If each individual person on his own decided such issues as the way we baptize, whether we baptize children, the organization of the church, things that have to do with how the church is run, etc., the order of the church can not be kept.  It is important that you follow the ways of the church.  On individualistic issues depending on your understanding of your faith, you must act according to your convictions.


What is your standard for your actions?  Christians need to do what is right.  However, just doing what is right is not good.  At the same time you need to have a huge heart, a patient heart. You need to be not judging, but be accepting. The church must be the same.  The church stands in the truth of the Gospel and must correctly preach the Gospel. This was the theme of Romans chapter 1 to 11.  The next important thing is while standing on the foundation of this truth, in the relationships between Christians we need to have open minds.  In the church both those people with strong faith, and those who are weak, need to open up their hearts to each other and accept each other.


Jesus always ate with sinners. The Pharisees saw this and criticized him.  Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31, 32) Jesus’ will is to accept those who are weak.  He poured his heart into accepting weak people and changing their lives.  He didn’t condemn their sin.  In the church there are many kinds of people ranging from spiritual babies to the elderly. We must not look at the other person by our own standards. Even those that look like splendid Christians had a time when they were spiritual babies.  It is nothing more than by the grace of God that they have so splendidly matured.  If that is the case, God is asking us to be a church that has an opened heart, and accepts each other.  Those who are strong in the faith and those who are weak in faith should pray for each other as a church and let’s accept all those who come to the church. That is because the church’s commission is to lead sinners to salvation.