Weak People Believe Certain Things Strongly (Reading Romans 14)

Romans 14 is an odd passage that it admonishes the strong in the Christian community to be able to constructively deal with the weak. The immediate audience is comprised of people who had strong beliefs about diet and the observance of special days. The odd aspect of the passage is that Paul is labeling those with strong convictions as those who are weak.

There are essential points of belief that define the Christian community. The identity of Jesus as the Son of God and the meaning of His death, burial and resurrection are non-negotiable. That a person must repent of sin and receive Jesus as Savior and Lord is a foundational tenant of our faith. Yet there are many other things in the Christian community that people believe strongly. Paul says that people believe in certain things so strongly, like diet and days, that they are matters of conscience (v. 5). As such we should not cause a brother to stumble over them (v. 13). Yet how could Paul call someone who believes something strongly, weak?

The common perception is that people who have strong convictions, and hold to them, are greater versions of Christianity. The most popular example I could point to is the Duggar family whose life is documented on TLC’s “17 and Counting.” I will admit I watch the show only when I am exercising agape love for my wife and sacrifice control of the remote control. Outside of wife love, I have no interest in watching the show. It stresses me out; as does “John and Kate Plus 8.” Although with John and Kate it is not the number of kids that stresses me out as much as it is Kate’s constant nagging. I digress, back to the Duggars. The Duggars exhibit strong Christian beliefs in modesty that lead them to dress their daughters in long skirts, plain shirts, and it seems a certain style for hair. Many would say their consistent practice of modesty makes them appear to be “strong” Christians. But what if they believed parents who did not require their daughters to wear skirts were something less than Christian? What if they refused to fellowship with anyone who names the name of Christ in pants? At this point strong belief becomes divisive and as such it is a point of weakness.

Paul’s teaching is ironic in that the strong seem to be people who believe things weakly and the weak seem to be people who believe things strongly. Where is the balance? The balance is that brothers and sisters in Christ should seek to major on the majors and not allow the non-definitive aspects of our faith divide our fellowship. “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God (14:20).” Yet it must be said that the burden for dealing with the weak who believe certain things strongly, is upon the strong who believe certain things weakly. The strong should be able to exhibit a faith that is accepting and not prone to quarreling, with those who believe strongly in skirts, or days, or diets, or Bible versions, or abstinence from alcohol, or absence from movie theaters. . . Christian fellowship is something we should believe in strongly.


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