Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. Romans 14:19-21
In this passage, Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. Rome was the capital of the empire and consisted of a diverse population made up of Romans, foreign merchants, slaves, and conquered peoples. In such a cosmopolitan center there were followers of Jesus from various cultural backgrounds in house churches throughout the city. This inevitably made Rome a seedbed for controversy. Well into the 4th century Christians from the East and the West struggled over the correct date for celebrating Easter. Here in this passage the debate surrounds food. Paul is letting them know that what we eat and whether it is right or wrong is a matter of conscience. It is something that is between the believer and his Lord.
You may say to yourself “Food! How trivial! What a petty thing to argue about?” But I think if you focus on what they are arguing about then you are missing the point. The emphasis should be on the phrase “destroy the work of God”. What does it mean to destroy the work of God? The answer can be found in verse 13: To put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister to cause them to stumble in their faith. It’s about more than just food. It is about the precious faith of our brother and sister in comparison to our so called “rights”. We have to make a decision about whether we will follow the ways of this world or the ways of the Kingdom of God. You can insert just about any thing in that is non essential to life and to your faith and it works the same.
For the sake of “politics” do not destroy the work of God
For the sake of “entertainment” do not destroy the work of God
For the sake of “alcohol” do not destroy the work of God
For the sake of my “cultural tradition” do not destroy the work of God
The list can go on and on and on but the point is this. All of these things we hold up as important pale in comparison to the work of God in the life of another follower of Jesus. To put a stumbling block in the way of their faith and cause them to sin is just not worth it. For the sake of the work of God destroy your entrenched positions and strong opinions in order to promote peace and building up others.
As Augustine said “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”
Strength and honor!