Then Paul says that our relationship with one another is more important than our life style:
“The truth is that we neither live nor die as self-contained units. At every turn life links us to God, and when we die we come face to face with him. In life or death we are in the hands of God. Christ lived and died that he might be the Lord in both life and death” (Romans 14:7-9)
Paul is saying, “Whether we live or whether we die, it really doesn’t matter. That is not the important thing. The important thing is that we belong to the Lord. He understands.” That is what we should remember in our relationships with one another. We belong to the Lord. We are brothers and sisters. We are not servants of each other. We are servants of the Lord and he has the right to change us. Christ alone has won the right to judge:
Christ lived and died that he might be the Lord in both life and death. Why, then, criticise your brother’s actions, why try to make him look small? We shall all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards or even our own, but by the standard of Christ. It is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’. It is to God alone that we have to answer for our actions. (Romans 14:9-12)
The Lord alone has the right to judge us in these areas and he has the ability to do so because he has been involved in both death and life. He died, so he knows what ultimate and utter limitation is. He gave himself up to death and he deliberately restricted himself in many things so that he knows what that is like. And he lives, so he is free to do anything and everything that he desires, and he knows what that is like. Therefore, he alone has won the right to judge us. He understands both of us.
So Paul says, “Stop trying to take his place. Stop trying to be Christ to the rest of the church or playing God to each other. Why do you judge your brother? Why do you look down on your brother? It is wrong. You are trying to take Christ’s place when you do that. But remember that all of us, both men and women, all brothers and sisters together, must individually stand before God’s judgment seat.”
This is true in both a present and future sense. There is a sense that we are before him all the time and we have to give an account to him and to him alone. But there is also coming a day that Paul mentions in First Corinthians 4, where he says, “The Lord returns and brings to light all the hidden things of the heart,” (I Corinthians 4:5). All the things that we thought nobody ever saw will be brought out to the light. That is when we must give an account to the Lord. That is where we stand. Again, Paul sums up everything in the first part: We are not servants of each other; we are brothers and sisters; we are all struggling; we are all in the process; we are all subject to change; we are all trying to understand truth more clearly as we go on and we are all being freed by it. However, in the process, the only one who has a right to do anything about it is the Lord. So stop judging each other.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome