What Love Allows

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from Romans 14:13-23 

13 Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. 19 Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; 21 it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. 22 The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. 23But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


It’s always hard to write on the passages that refer to food sacrificed to idols. Nothing in modern context makes a very good analogy. Ethically compromised medicines, alcohol, revealing clothes, R-rated movies, swear words? Any of these can be perilous for the virtue of some and made loving use of by others — it just depends on context. Which got me thinking: what if you’re on the other side? Your conscience is bothered by something that other Christians think nothing of. They invite you to watch the movie, or use the word in your presence. If they know how you feel about it, then they’re guilty of failing to walk in love, as Paul describes today. But what if they don’t? What if it’s an honest assumption that you feel as they do?

The answer is in yesterday’s lesson: don’t assume that other people are like you, even in things that, for you, are wrong. Unless it’s spelled out somewhere in the Bible, the gates of what love allows are wider than we usually think. It’s a hard place to be in: faithful to your own conscience without judging others and/or considering yourself to be holier than your imbibing, salty-tongued, art film ethusiast, short-skirt-clad counterparts! It comes down to, don’t be easily offended — or even, don’t be offended at all. Not only don’t jump to the conclusion that others are less virtuous, but if you have to excuse yourself, be able to do it with grace.

And then, don’t beat yourself up. You’re not less-than. God calls each of us to express love and honor in our own ways for reasons we don’t always — or even often — understand.

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Today we pray for:

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas
The Diocese of Bukavu (Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo)


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