“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?” (Romans 14:1-4a)
How should we respond to Christians with different opinions on things? How much fellowship, if any, can we have with those believers who do or believe things that we do not approve of as Christians?
The problem Paul addresses concerns opinions on disputable matters, those taboos or prohibitions, those things we believe to be unacceptable Christian behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. His counsel is that we should remember the grace and mercy we have received and not judge our fellow believers in the area of disputable or non-essential matters, areas in which Christians can have different opinions, those gray areas that the Bible does not condemn and those things about which it is silent. We must love and respect our brethren in the Lord at all times, even when we disagree.
Paul labels the Christians with many scruples as those whose faith is weak. The weak do not grasp Christian freedom. They think that Christianity is a matter of following strict rules. Perhaps they also do not understand salvation by grace. Perhaps they still believe that works are efficacious for salvation. The weak have many scruples, many taboos, many things they feel are the ways of righteous Christian living.
The strong on the other hand, have few if any scruples about external behaviors. Paul is obviously with this camp. He shared the broader view of the Christian life. Strong Christians understand Christian liberty, the freedom which allows believers to become involved with many areas of life and culture without becoming contaminated or defiled or falling into sin. The strength of their faith protects them from error and sin. They are not licentious, but believe in honoring the Lord in all things.
The weak were more dependent on traditions and written laws to keep them from sin than on the Spirit of God. The strong can discern between what is sinful and what is neutral. The strong use the discernment given to them by the Holy Spirit. They believe that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth, that He will guide them and show them all the things necessary for Godly living.
We are all accountable to God for our actions. Yes, the church must discipline sinners, and the legal authorities must punish evil doers, but Christians ought not judge the veracity of the faith of another believer for whom Christ has died. We ought not reject or condemn someone as an unbeliever simply because we disagree with his actions and views on non-essentials.