“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)

In this time of social violence, immorality, and unrest, how should we believers respond to people, even fellow 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 trouble arises when we do not agree on what those non-essentials are. Yet the true believer will shun immorality in all its forms as well as the views of the world, the media and the culture. The believer uses the word and the Spirit of God as the guide for all behavior.

If others who claim to be believers are promoting blatant sins or living in sinful lifestyles without remorse, sins specifically addressed in God’s word, such a one cannot be a Christian for he or she is ignoring the voice of the Holy Spirit Who convicts us all of sin and leads us to repentance.

As for other matters, the apostle Paul counseled us to remember the grace and mercy we have received. We ought 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, dancing, eating, even which political candidates to endorse. We must love and respect our brethren in the Lord at all times, even when we disagree. We believers are all members of the same body, so we cannot cut off a part of that body without doing harm to the whole.

Paul labels 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 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, immoral, or idolatrous but believe in honoring the Lord in all things.

The weak are 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. 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.