Read Romans 14
Focus on verse 1
One of the more commonly quoted verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Unfortunately, it is most often quoted, or better yet misquoted, in an attempt to justify questionable behavior when someone questions our morality.
The verse in focus in today’s reading might actually be more contextually correct for use as a defense in the case of someone questioning our behavior.
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (v. 13)
While the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 7 as set in a context of divine judgment, suggesting that God may judge us in accordance with the way we choose to forgive, or not forgive, those who have hurt us. Paul’s admonition in Romans is set in a context of believers passing judgment on one another over issues of faith practices between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. Some of the issues that threatened to cause division were matters that were more cultural in nature than doctrinal. This tendency to insist that others follow practices that we are most familiar with and implying that our practices are most doctrinally accurate, has been unnecessarily dividing the church for centuries. In this I am not suggesting that there are not doctrinal issues that at times are worth fighting for, but in too many cases we make choose to make doctrinal issues out of practices that we do not fully understand because they are culturally unfamiliar to us and therefore make us uncomfortable. In this case, Paul is encouraging us to put the interests of others ahead of our own in these cases in order to retain unity within the body of Christ.
Possibly the greatest factor that causes this to happen within the church is our lack of familiarity with the word of God. We formulate our “doctrine” based not so much on the word of God as upon our particular denomination’s interpretation of the word of God.
It’s not that denominations are a bad thing; it is just that no one denomination has everything exactly right, yet nearly every denomination has at least a few things right. If we could focus a little more on the things we have right, and a little less on the things we think others have wrong, we may just find ourselves a little closer to the idea that the Apostle Paul had in mind