I really like this chapter, as it pertains with some things I struggled with not too long ago... There are things in life that God has taught me- like contentment, being a better helper to my husband, my spending habits, my priorities, walking by faith- that are just ways God has pruned me- and are milestones in my walk with the Lord.
There are also some things that God revealed to me as sin in my life. According to the Bible, it was not sin in itself, but the result of me doing these things made it sinful for me. I will give you an example.
Alcohol. In the Bible, I believe Jesus and others drank wine. I believe the Bible does not command us to abstain from alcohol but from getting drunk. For me, even when I just had a glass of wine or a beer, my thoughts would become impure, my character would change, and many times my actions would prove sinful. Drinking for me was a door to sin. Therefore, I stopped opening that door- I quit drinking. I say it so simply, and yet it was one of the hardest things I have done. It wasn't that I was an alcoholic, but I really enjoyed social drinking. God asked me too many times to quit, and I kept putting it aside- trying to control the problems myself. God didn't ask me to quit because He wanted to make my life miserable, but quite the opposite. It was no longer a cycle of drink, sin, feel guilty, ask for forgiveness, abstain for 2 months, drink again-thinking I had it under control, sin. He wanted to free me from the bondage of sin that was connected with my drinking habits. And that is what I am- free!
Obviously I heard the Lord speak, and I obeyed. But what if the Lord didn't speak to you the same way? This is where I want to point out my sinful judgment. I do believe there are blatant sins that we need to hold each other accountable for, but I also believe that God will teach each person in His timing about godly characters and habits that will honor Him, in His timing, and in His way. Unfortunately, I had the urge to tell my friends about the characteristics and habits God was teaching me in a way that commanded them to follow suit that was not in His timing or in His way. I was just so strong about what God had told me and instructed me to do, I fell into thinking, if the Lord wanted me to know this now, He must want you to know this now too. That was wrong on my part. Who am I to tell people to do this or that if the Lord hadn't spoken to them? Verse 4 says, Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. It was not my place to judge the actions of others, for they are not accountable to me. Also verse 16 says, So do not let what you regard as good be spoken as evil. For me this meant, whatever I knew God to be teaching me, was for me- it did not make it sinful for others. God teaches everyone differently and at different times in their walk. For one person, drinking might be sin. For another, having Netflix might be sin. For another, buying that new car (jeans, purse, ATV) might be a sin. Who am I to pass judgment?
14:1-As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Remember, that not everyone is in the same place spiritually- we all grow into maturity at different rates. Therefore,The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. (Verse 22) If we, who are mature, overwhelm the weaker in faith with the things the Lord is showing us, they will get discouraged and we can actually do more harm than good. Remember the verse in 1 Corinthians 3:2- But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. And in Hebrews 5:12-14- For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
However, in verse 21 it says, It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. This is where sin can be avoided. If we do something to cause our friends to stumble, I believe we are held accountable. I hope that my friends who know my weakness with alchohol, would not drink around me, therefore make me stumble. I can think, even right now, ways I have recently caused my friends to stumble. Forgive me Lord. It can be as simple as telling someone about a sale, when you know they don't have the money and might go in debt for something they don't need. It might be bringing over a cheesecake when you know your friend has been struggling to eat healthier and lose weight. It might be bringing over a movie that has a brief sex scene in in when you know your friend struggles with porn and lust. These last three examples seem pretty harmless- don't they? However, let me make it more of a reality when you see it through different eyes, perhaps your own...
How would you feel if you were the one broke and constantly being tempted to use your credit card on stuff? You feel convicted, and have been praying for strength not to spend money when you don't have the money. You and your husband have been fighting over finances and his pay checks seem to be getting less and less every month. Then a friend comes over and gets super excited about some incredible sale online and tells you that she would split the shipping with you because there are a few things she wants too, but the sale ends today. You don't think twice about gettin' in on the sale, until the purchase goes through and you feel the conviction in your heart that you should not have just spent money you don't have for something you don't need. The package comes and you hide your new clothes (craft supplies, makeup, books) from your spouse, knowing he will be upset about your unneeded purchase.
What if you are the person who has been trying to lose weight for over a year now, and you finally stopped trying to do it on your own- you surrendered it to God. You have verses pinned up all over your house and you made a menu plan for the next month! It's been a week and you lost four pounds. You've been sharing your struggle with your friends, and although your best friend is as skinny as can be and eats all that she wants, she prays with you and supports you. One day, you decide to have a girls movie night, at your house- and one of your friends brings over a huge honkin' cheesecake. Oh crap. It's only this once... right? You feel the urge to resist...but it just looks so good! Your friend realizes that she just brought over your favorite cheesecake when you have been doing so good losing weight, but then assures you one small piece won't make you gain your four pounds back. The movie ends, your friends go home- and oops- she must have forgotten to take the left over cheesecake. All of a sudden your belly is rumbling and it's sitting on your counter with what seems like a glorious light glowing on it.
What if you are the person who struggles with porn. You and your wife just haven't been having quality time together, which also means lack of intimacy. You struggled with porn everyday, at least once, for over a month. You finally confessed it to an elder at church because you knew you needed help. You also asked your close Friday night guy friends to pray for you. You pray about it everyday, and for the last week, you have been porn free. You shared with your wife that you have been struggling, and unfortunately she's mad and has been withholding sex from you ever since. You are really struggling this week as you fight impure thoughts and temptations when you go online. So far, you haven't given in. It's Friday night, and the guys come over for some man time. After playing a game of cards, one of the guys pops in a movie. We're all laughin' having a good time- then it comes. All over the screen is a hot chick, seductively undressing herself while her eyes flirt with the man in the film- although it just seemed as if she was staring at you. The room goes quiet and your friends are taking in this testosterone building scene. You hear the Lord say- get up, walk out of the room. But you would seem like a wuss if you did that, right? After all, these guys go to my church, so it can't be that wrong- it's not like they are having sex...it's not porn. The scene changes, and you are free- for now. Your wife gets home late that night after the guys have all gone home, and suddenly you have a desire to be intimate with her- maybe she will look at me the same way that girl did in the movie...impure thoughts flood the mind again...
Do these situations sound so harmless now? I know I may have gone to a bit extreme, but aren't they so real at the same time? I don't think we take into consideration how critical it is to honor other people's struggles. I don't think we realize how much it can be damaging to them, if it's not damaging to us.
Let us be careful in our actions to not cause a brother or sister to fall. Let us make every attempt to be aware of their struggles and convictions about what is wrong for them, and let us respect and honor those things while we spend time with them. Let us not pass judgment on them if what they say is wrong for them, seems harmless to us. But let us commend them for their obedience to God and support them in it.
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.