Let us therefore make everything y effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)
Sadly, you don't often have to scroll far down your social media feed to encounter Christians arguing with one another, typically about non-essential beliefs, and you might be shocked to discover that this type of bickering isn't a new phenomenon. In fact, this is an issue dating all the way back to the early church, and one of the main themes of Romans addresses this very topic.
Paul wrote the book of Romans to the early church to teach and remind them that mankind lacks God’s righteousness because of sin, yet they can receive justification and His righteousness if any person, Jew or Gentile, chooses to believe. The later chapters of Romans reveal how this righteousness can be lived out in everyday life, and in Romans 14, Paul takes some time to address a hot topic of the time: eating meat.
This hot topic was a source of heated debate and division. Some felt that because God made all things clean eating meat was acceptable while others felt that eating meat, whether because it was offered as a sacrifice or because it went against their dietary restrictions, was not acceptable. It’s with this understanding that Paul writes, “19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Paul knew there was nothing wrong or sinful about eating meat, yet he knew the greater concern was that it had become a source of judgment, pride, and division that was far more detrimental to the church than a daily meal. They had the freedom to eat, but God would receive greater honor if they used their freedom to bring peace and mutual edification rather than bickering and judgment. In essential beliefs, like Jesus being the Son of God, we must stand for the Truth uncompromisingly, but in non-essential beliefs that don’t lead to sin, like eating meat, we must prioritize unity and love over opinion.
I wonder how much greater the influence and impact the present day church would have if we chose to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification”. Whether it’s regarding worship expressions or the tribulation, God asks us to pursue unity and build each other up. Whether it’s regarding food or predestination, God asks us to pursue love. In fact, I think this principle of making every effort to pursue peace and edification should even extend to daily life: when you’re personally offended be a peacemaker, when there is division be a peacemaker, and when you are wronged be quick to forgive. Choose to build others up, to encourage, and to believe the best in those around you; rather than judge and see the worst. Again, we must not compromise on essential beliefs and in areas of sin, but in these non-essential areas that lead to arguments and division may we remember that our greatest testimony is our love for each other.
Jesus, please help me to stand for Your Truth in the essentials while resting in Your grace and love in the non-essentials. May my heart be more concerned with peace, unity, and building others up than being right, winning arguments, and flexing my spiritual muscles. Help me to make every effort to sacrifice my own opinions that I might be a peacemaker that honors You. In Your name, Amen!