Thin Ice

Romans 14:4a: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (NIV).

Observation: Paul’s question is intended to build harmony within the body by pointing out that all believers are fellow servants of the same Lord, Jesus Christ. The examples upon which Paul builds his argument include dietary laws wherein a strong, self-confident Christian understands that what is eaten or drunk carries no spiritual significance, while a weaker believer may find greater comfort and safety by moving within familiar structures, not transgressing predetermined boundaries.

Application: Using such terminology as “weaker” or “stronger” may seem itself to be inflammatory or judgmental; these are value-laden terms to us. But Paul goes on to say that our judge is God, not man, that each of us will stand or fall by the decision of our master, “and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4b).

In other words, who am I to judge? This business of assuming I am among the stronger (surely that would be right, wouldn’t it Lord?) puts me on thin ice indeed. I run the risk of an arrogant skater who believes his great skill and speed will allow him to swiftly skirt dangers that would ensnare lesser skaters, only to find myself dunked in an icy wake-up call. I have no position from which to judge another, no standing from which to assess another’s heart condition. Most of the time I cannot accurately assess my own!

God’s path to righteousness is refreshingly unique for each of His children. Because of that, Paul’s command in verse 13 is essential to obey: “stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block . . . in your brother’s way.” That’s more than good advice; it’s a good command.

Upon honest reflection, I realize that the stumbling block in another’s way has too often been me. This is my own icy wake-up call to remember that my journey into Christ will never end this side of eternity. I have not arrived. I have stumbled and will stumble again. In this reality, the Lord calls me to don a spirit of compassion and encouragement for my fellow sojourners; after all, am I not desperately in need of the same from those who observe my own unsteady gait?

Prayer: Father, thank You for this reminder to not judge my brothers and sisters. I am in need of Your mercy and grace each day of my life. Forgive me, Lord, for any thought of being in Your eyes better than another.

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