While discussing faith with some co-workers, a colleague said that Christians weren’t allowed to do anything. There a so much rules and regulations. This struck me. In a sense he is right. There are a lot of rules and regulations. It differs between the Christian denominations, but it is what is visible to the outside world. Is this the way we should experience our faith? I think not.
Romans 4: 1 – 23 (King James Version) gives us a different message:
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks;
and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Paul is talking about eating meat. This part of the scripture isn’t a plea for veganism, nor for eating meat. There was a discussion between these Christians if eating meat, which was used in rites for other gods, was allowed for Christian. Some had no problem with it and some did. The latter criticized the former of being unholy, of committing a sin.
Some people need more rules to keep their faith; this can be because they have a weakness. For example someone, that has a problem with drinking, needs to abstain from alcohol. Others might not have a problem with that. Paul is saying here that we need to help each other. Don’t drink alcohol nearby someone that has a problem with it. But must we always abide by the rules of people who need to live stricter? No, it’s goes the other way around. Someone that has stricter rules for their lives, must not judge someone that doesn’t keep those rules (though this person will adapt to the stricter rules if this other person is around). What Paul is saying is in line with the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 7: 1 - 6):
1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Don’t judge each other; rather look at your own problems first before pointing out the problems of others.
If my faith is strong enough, is everything allowed than? No, of course not. You have the Ten Commandments to guide you through your life. The Bible gives enough guidelines based on these Ten Commandments to show you how to live. Then there are a lot of things there aren’t guidelines for. Get information out of the religious tradition you belong to, pray on it and use your gut (consciousness). If you can do it and ‘look God in the eye’ then there’s probably no problem with it. When in doubt: don’t do it. Keep thinking critically about your actions and ask others for advice. Discuss these things with other people, but don’t judge each other. Rather see each other in the light of God’s love.