S (Scripture): Romans 14:19 So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for building up one another. 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. For although all things are clean, it is wrong to cause anyone to stumble by what you eat. 14:21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 14:22 The faith you have, keep to yourself before God.
O (Observation): Paul is a master of taking a practical application and make a theological statement out of it. In a word, he “discerns.”
Jewish Christians used to follow strict dietary laws. Gentile Christians followed no such laws, and thus felt free to eat anything. And at this point, we don’t know how wide-spread Peter’s vision of the freedom to eat unclean food was applied. (I know the other meaning of that vision was that God accepts and brings in ALL people into the fold…and that they were free from the laws constructed by humans.).
So, eating “unclean” food was a stumbling block for those who thought they were doing so against God’s wishes. Paul is looking for a situation in which all can feel comfortable…even if it meant abstaining from such foods. Oh…and keep your piety to yourself. If you avoid meat for the sake of neighbor…don’t brag about it : )
A (Application): Sometimes we see our religious applications as unchangeable and infallible. Like you have to believe exactly what I believe before I will accept you, or for us to get along.
But community seems to be a higher priority for me. People coming together from differing backgrounds: churched, de-churched, un-churched, etc. we can hold a set of beliefs in common, but sometimes we struggle with how to apply those beliefs.
So, Paul’s attempt is to get those folks to work out their differences, without feeling like they have to forsake their faith.
If we aren’t willing to work things out for the sake of community…we will have no community in which to work things out.
Difficult? Yes! Impossible? With God, all things are possible.
P (Prayer): Lord, soften our hearts for the sake of community. Amen.