Right now, I want you to notice that this whole section is part of an extended commentary from Paul on the command of Jesus to love one another. This is part of how you love one another, and this has been the subject ever since the apostle turned to the practical part of this letter, from Chapter 12 on. In fact, in Chapter 12 he tells us two things about love:
First, love must be serving. That is its nature; love serves. That is why we are given spiritual gifts, so we can serve one another. Paul emphasizes that truth in Chapter 12. Second, he tells us that love must be genuine. It cannot be phony, it can never be a sham; it cannot be “put-on” love. It has to be real. Then, in Chapter 13, we learned that love must be submissive, especially to the authorities, to the state, and the powers that be, because they are put there by God.
In the latter part of Chapter 13, Paul told us that love must be universal; we owe love to everyone without exception. As ambassadors of God’s Kingdom, we “Owe no man anything, but to love one another,” (Romans 13:8a). That is a universal debt we must be continually paying to everyone we meet. Now, in Chapter 14, we learn that love must be patient and tolerant of other people’s views. This begins in how we act towards someone we regard as less enlightened than we are, as broad of a topic that can be. Think about who that is for a moment and then listen to what Paul says to do about it (Verse 1):
Welcome a man whose faith is weak, but not with the idea of arguing over his scruples. (Romans 14:1)
That is very plain, isn’t it? Someone walks into your church; possibly a new believer. Do not reject him; do not ignore him; do not treat him like he is a second-class believer. Accept him, but not so you can argue with him, but “without passing judgment on disputable matters.”
Let me explain how this can happen. A few years ago I got in a discussion . . . okay, a “grave disagreement” over whether Paul’s writings were valid. This brother was arguing whether any of the Pauline epistles were valid for us to read—or certainly to teach. Well, in my mind, it was a ridiculous argument, but he still wanted to argue his point of view.
When I was a pastor, I ran into this all the time. I had to learn to accept these folks despite our disagreements. Now, when I say that we are to accept them, of course, means that regardless of where you may struggle with someone and about what you may struggle, you must realize that they are brothers and sisters in the family of God, if they have chosen to follow Jesus. You did not make them part of the family—the Lord did. As they say, you can choose your friends, but you are stuck with your relatives. Right? Your task is to accept them because they are your brothers and sisters. You are not to accept them with the idea of immediately straightening them out in the areas in which they are weak (or you disagree). I think that is a very necessary, practical admonition because many of us love to argue and sometimes the first thing we want to do is straighten somebody’s thinking out.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome