What should guide us in that? Paul takes it up more fully in the second section, Verses 19 to 21:
Concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of one another’s character (Romans 14:19)
Or as some versions render this: “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” See? Our task is to be vessels of peace and “mutual edification.” I love that phrase. We are to “edify,” “build up,” our brothers and sisters.
Those are our guidelines. We are to enjoy our liberties, indulge them wherever we desire, if we can do without destroying peace, or mutual building up in truth, or hinder someone from growing in the faith. Paul enlarges on these guidelines for us. Whenever you are doing something that threatens the peace of a community, or a church, or a group, or even an individual, so that they cannot handle it and become angry and upset, then back off. Don’t get an attitude that says, “Oh, get over it.”
Let me give you a personal example of this. When I go out to eat, or attend a party, rarely will have an alcoholic beverage. For personal reasons I simply prefer a Diet Coke. People will often offer me a drink, but I decline. I’m not doing it to be rude or snooty, I just prefer a soft drink. If we ever meet each other and want to get on my good side, offer me a Diet Coke or Diet Root Beer (but never offer me a non-diet drink).
On the other hand, my wife will sometimes have a glass of beer or wine. That’s okay. She is free to do so. I don’t mind. I remember, not too long ago, one of my daughter-in-laws was quite surprised and downright shocked to see me drinking an ale. In all of the years she had been in our family, she had never seen me drink any alcohol.
Christians get so intent on having their rights that I have seen them indulge in the very presence of people they know will be offended, simply because they wanted to show how free they were. Paul says that kind of thing is wrong. He goes on to say,
Surely we shouldn’t wish to undo God’s work for the sake of a plate of meat! (Romans 14:20)
Peace is the work of God. Nothing can produce lasting peace among people, especially those of different cultural backgrounds, unless there is a work of Christ in their hearts. The Spirit of God is the one who produces peace. So, if for the sake of some right that you have, some liberty you feel, you destroy that peace, you are destroying what God has brought about. Do not do that. It is not worth it.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome