is not to be despised.

Romans 14:1–9 (ESV)

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

How can Paul tell Christians who eat meat to not despise the one who abstains, while calling those who abstain from meat “weaker?” Isn’t he despising them right there?

No, that’s not how he means it. Consider this.

Suppose you know a child in the first grade who can add and subtract but doesn’t know anything about multiplication and division. Should anyone “despise” this child for their ignorance?

Of course not; they’re only in the first grade. Multiplication is taught in the third grade.

So it is with Christians. Not everyone is at the same place in their walk with the Lord. Some Christians are “weaker” in some areas. They may be strong in other ways. These aren’t permanent conditions anyway. Everyone grows.

Now Paul is implying, clearly, that eating meat is OK, but this is only about the ceremonial law. This isn’t about modern dietary science.

Except as it applies to the main point of this passage. Paul is teaching that we shouldn’t despise or pass judgment on people we disagree with. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? We should never despise people we disagree with—on diet, exercise, or whatever.

We’re all servants of Christ.

This passing judgment thing has gone nuclear lately, especially in politics. We don’t listen. If people won’t even be open minded about things as minor as tax policy, what chance do we have with the gospel?

Actually, a lot. We have a special help line that’s open 24/7.

Still, be shrewd. Avoid getting pulled onto tangents that the enemy throws up only to distract.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.