Here’s today’s passage:
14:1 Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. 14:2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables. 14:3 The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him. 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
(I’m writing this from Wheaton College, where I’m at the Student Life conference. I fell a day behind due to the quick transition from Mexico to being here.)
This passage is a mixture of imperative commands and declarative statements. I think I’ll separate them for analysis.
Receive the one weak in the faith.
Do not have disputes over differing opinions.
[one who does] must not despise the one who does not
[one who does not] must not judge the one [who does]
[do not] pass judgment on another’s servant
From all of these commands I gather that there was a problem in the early church where they were shunning, judging, despising and disputing with each other about various “gray” issues. It was causing friction and disunity.
We need to remember that all of us will answer to God for these gray areas. We need to allow God to speak individually to other believers. I like how James put it in his sermon on Sunday: “How dare we become ‘junior holy spirits’ in the lives of others.'”
It doesn’t mean that we can have no convictions or differences of opinions. But the passage is clearly about how we treat those we disagree with. We should not shun them (our associations), despise them (our attitudes), or judge them or pass judgment (our condemnation).
I liked how James applied this passage to how we treat even unbelievers. We should never treat them with disdain. Our relationships should stay cordial and gracious even as we disagree.
I found it interesting to reflect that he weaker brother isn’t necessarily the new believer, but it is the one who has the stricter standards.