“So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” – Romans 14:13 (NLT)
From respect and honor for authority, Paul flows right into respect, honor, and love for each other by how we live. The more I read through Romans this time around, the more I’m realizing the deep need for the truths contained within this letter to be reiterated to the American Church, because Paul is speaking directly to the heart of all believers in America.
The way we live impacts so many things about life. Both for us personally, and for those who are in our sphere of influence. And these impacts can be either good or bad. Yet we live in a world where people seem to only care about doing what they want to do, without a second thought of the repercussions and the consequences of their actions. The spirit of the age is feeding this too. We have had “protests” over the last few years where people weren’t actually protesting anything, but the people were simply taking advantage of life situations to feed their own selfish desires. No care or concern for anyone else involved except themselves. All in the name of “justice.” What an insult to the people who were actually, legitimately struggling and suffering.
How often do we see this happening within the body of “believers?”
The way you live impacts and influences those who are around you. I will probably reiterate this a few more times before the end of this article, because it is so crucial that we understand this. The effect can either be direct or indirect, but there is still an impact.
Paul specifically makes mention of food and drink in this chapter, so let’s hit on that context for a second. Take someone who was an alcoholic for years, and they just got sober and gave their life to Christ. They know that they have the tendency to go backwards if they’re not careful, so they have to steer clear of any kind of alcoholic substance. Now on the flip side of that, you have a person who has been following Christ for years. They are a very strong and devout follower, who enjoys a beer or a glass of wine every now and then. Drinking in and of itself is not a sin (though I personally believe that we as believers should avoid it due to the social norm that is associated with it these days). However, if the newly converted, freshly sober person is around and the devout, seasoned follower decides they want to have a drink in front of this person, this is where you have stopped showing love to your neighbor.
This one who has a history with being an alcoholic, they are being tempted by someone who is supposed to be a brother/sister in Christ, showing them love and helping sharpen their faith. This one act may not seem like a big deal, but it is in reality a huge deal to the one who came from that lifestyle. The very presence of alcohol in their midst is a stumbling block for them.
Some may say, “Well it’s not my responsibility to keep them from giving into temptation.” Possibly, but you can help them avoid it altogether by not drinking in their midst. If you can’t come to this kind of mindset, then you fail to show love to your neighbor and you fail to practice self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. And lack of self-control gets you into sin. Every action of your life produces some kind of fruit, but that fruit is only good fruit if it is of the Spirit. Anything outside of the Spirit is bad, rotten fruit that breeds sickness and death.
The moral of this whole thing is quite simple, if we would only choose to walk in it consistently. As I’ve said multiple times already, our actions have an impact on those within our sphere of influence, whether good or bad. This is why we as believers in Christ MUST live a life that is selfless and looks out for others around us. Our lives must reflect love. They must reflect Christ, who is Love. Love is our highest goal. True, authentic, Christ-like love.