We are going through the book of Romans in class currently. This past Sunday we began to cover chapter 14. In that chapter, Paul discusses and contrasts 'stronger' and 'weaker' brothers, freedom and not abusing that freedom, offending and being offended.
Very interesting stuff.
Personally, I don't have any problem with the part where we are NOT to look down on others for how they believe they should live their life. The difficult part for me is this idea of adjusting my life to what is acceptable to others. It seems to me that it would be very fair to live and let live. I won't judge you on matters that are 'disputable' or non-essential to being a christian, and you afford me the same respect.
But that's not what it says.
Paul states in vs. 15 that I'm not acting in love if I 'distress' my brother with what I'm doing. He goes on to say that I shouldn't let that which I know is good be spoken about as evil. Hmmm.
Vs. 20 - 21 talk about not causing another to stumble or fall.
So let me get this straight.
I can, by exercising my own legitimate freedom, cause another person to fall because they erroneously believe that what I'm doing is wrong? Maybe they see me doing what they consider wrong, and are influenced to do the same, which results in their conscience convicting them. I don't even like to use the word 'conviction' in this context. I think 'guilt' would be more accurate, and inappropriate guilt at that. (We can discuss later whether feelings of guilt are ever good) However, vs. 23 warns that if you have doubts about what you are doing, and go ahead and do it, you're sinning.
A point was raised that we always, or often, think of ourselves as the 'stronger' brother having to put up with that poor weakling brother. So maybe I'm just plain wrong, and the one I consider 'weak' is the right one? Yet, in the context of Romans 14, the stronger brother is the one who doesn't look down on, or condemn, his brother for what he does in these matters.
By definition, the weaker brother is the one who is offended.
Another point was made that the 'stronger' brother would be the one who gives preference to the one who insists that his way is right. That seems legit.
I'm no expert on this matter, and I don't have a tidy summary/conclusion.
I'm asking questions.
I hope I haven't offended anyone.