Look at Paul’s warning in Verse 15:
If your habit of unrestricted diet seriously upsets your brother, you are no longer living in love towards him. And surely you wouldn’t let food mean ruin to a man for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15)
See what I mean? It’s not loving to force people to move at your pace. To refuse to indulge in a freedom that you have for the sake of someone else, is certainly one of the clearest and truest exercises of Christian love. That is what Paul is encouraging us to do here.
The second thing he says in this regard, is that this issue of conflict between members of the “family,” does not demand unyielding firmness. Some issues do demand that. There are certain doctrines in the Scriptures we are to stand fast on, and refuse to let anyone change our views. When we discuss the issues of abortion; homosexuality; adultery; drunkenness; all of the social ills of our society, on those we must not bend our knee. However, when it comes to what foods we eat and whether we can mow the lawn on Sundays, we are not to take that kind of unyielding view. That is what Paul says in Verses 16, 17 and 18:
You must not let something that is all right for you look like an evil practice to somebody else. After all, the kingdom of Heaven is not a matter of whether you get what you like to eat and drink, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you put these things first in serving Christ you will please God and are not likely to offend men (Romans 14:16-18)
If you are going to create division by arguing so hard for your rights, or your freedom, or by flaunting your liberty in the face of those who do not agree with it, then you are distorting the gospel itself. Paul actually uses the word blaspheme. You are causing something that is good, the good news about Christ, to be blasphemed because you are making too much of an issue over something minor. You are insisting that your rights are so important that you have to divide the church over them, or separate from a brother or sister who does not believe what you do. That is saying to the unbelievers that Christianity consists of whether you do, or do not do, a certain thing. You are cheating them of hearing the Truth.
Please what I am discussing here. I seen churches divide over the music believers could listen to; what clothes they were allowed to wear; or whether they could eat at Olive Garden or “Friday’s” because they served alcohol. Holy Moly, folks! Let’s get a life! On the west-side of Michigan there was a church (unless it is still active) and when they made a purchase at a store and the total of the purchase ended in “666,” they had to purchase something more to change the total (a pack of gum or candy bar). I am sure the merchants appreciated that, but most cashiers would simply roll their eyes.
I know about a church several years ago in a small town that got into an argument over whether they should have a Christmas tree at their Christmas program. Some thought that a tree was fine; others thought it was a pagan practice. Tempers became so hot they actually got into fistfights over it! Now that is “loving” behavior, don’t you think?
Someone bought a tree and set it up, and another group dragged the tree out; then the other group dragged it back in. They ended up suing each other in a court of law! I’m serious. Of course the whole thing was spread in the newspapers for the entire town to read.
Now, you tell me, what else could a nonbeliever conclude other than that the gospel consists of whether you have a Christmas tree or not? You have got to be kidding me? Are these people for real? They made such an issue over it; they were ready to fight over it.
In a church I was pastoring, had a similar situation, but we handled it totally differently. We were in the process of planning our “Christmas pageant,” when someone raised the issue of the Christmas tree. The pastoral staff shrugged our shoulders and said, “Okay, we will do without the tree.”
Someone later came up, asked us about it, and wondered why we omitted the tree? We explained that someone complained and in order to keep peace, we chose not to have one. Was it a big deal? Probably not, but it would have been a “stumbling block” for some, so we thought it was best not to have it. We did point to the one brother who raised the concern, that there were many things that are done that have pagan origins, which no one complains about. The whole idea of gathering on Sunday is pagan. The true Sabbath is Saturday, but Clementine, in order to eliminate the “Jewishness” of the Christian faith, chose Sunday to be the day of worship. Even the whole holiday of Christmas originated from a pagan holiday, but we still celebrate it, right?
The main point of the Christian faith is not eating or drinking or Christmas trees. The main point is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. A non-Christian, looking at a Christian, should see these things, not wrangling and disputing and fighting and lawsuits, but righteousness.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome