“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 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 14:17-21
As a citizen of God’s glorious and endless kingdom, you’re a part of a vast and varied community. People from all backgrounds, categories, and cultures share this kingdom with you. While we share the most important things in common (Christ, His Word, His Spirit, etc.), we are still a very diverse people. No doubt you’ve already seen the ways in which disciples of Jesus can disagree about things of all kinds – from politics to diet, worship music preference, clothing standards, and on and on.
Because you’ve joined such a diverse body of people, it is absolutely crucial that you develop the mindset and attitude that the apostle Paul describes in Romans 14 (as well as 1 Corinthians 8). We must learn to distinguish between what is clearly the Word of our Master (and so binding on all His disciples) and what is a matter of conscience (and, therefore, only binding on the individual).
As much as we might prefer it wasn’t so, a part of being in the kingdom with others is that we are called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Love compels us to do what is best for them, and that sometimes means confronting sin that threatens to destroy their faith and their lives. As necessary as this duty is, we also have a duty to remain humble in our view of one another, remembering that my fellow disciples belong to one Master – and it’s not me! As Paul so plainly put it in verse 4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” Neither you nor I should call fellow disciples to conform to our own personal standards, but only those clearly set down by the Master of us all.
Guard your heart, Disciple, from the related but opposite temptations to: 1) ignore genuine sin in your fellow disciple’s life, and 2) harass your fellow disciple about issues of your own conviction rather than the Word of Christ. These two are related because they both flow from pride and a lack of love. I can’t stand idly by while my beloved brother or sister walks towards destruction and judgment, but neither can I stand in the place of their Master and burden them with my own personal standards of righteousness.
You’ll need the righteousness, peace, joy of the Holy Spirit to get this right, Disciple, but – good news! – they are readily available to you at all times. Love your brothers and sisters enough to do whatever leads to peace and mutual edification (building up). This is, after all, a kingdom of deep and faithful love that flows from the throne of the great King Himself!
Loving my fellow servants the Kingdom way,