Fettuccine, Fast Food and Romans Fourteen
Well, I’m glad to see that I’ve drawn you in to this post with my interesting title, but the truth is, the premise behind this post is more about what you drink while you enjoy your fettuccine and fast food. And what’s this about Romans 14?
In Romans 14, God encourages both strong Christians and weak Christians to come to understanding about the gray areas. The gray areas are often reflected in the standards that different Christians set up in their lives to help protect themselves from falling into deep sins. However, these standards differ from Christian to Christian, a needful reality when we realize that different believers have different besetting sins and different types of weaknesses, not to mention different levels of spiritual growth.
Romans 14 spells out specific attitudes that we as Christians should have for one another, and today, we are focusing on the relationship of the strong Christians to those who weak.
Here is an illustration. I’ve seen this first hand.
The Weak Brother
Here is a new believer who has been saved from a life of alcoholism. As a new Christian, he realizes that drunknennes is his weakness, and he needs to take measures to protect himself as he grows in the Lord.
This man makes the decision to abstain from alcohol. He even goes to the point that he does not want to be around alcohol in any shape or form and he doesn’t even want to be in any scenario that would expose him to it. He decides that he will not even eat in restaurants that serve alcohol because he doesn’t want to be tempted with drunkenness. That is where he has drawn the line. That is his “standard,” if you will.
The Strong Brother
Now here is where I fit in. I grew up in a preacher’s home. We never had any kind of alcohol in our house growing up. I have never even had the desire to consume alcohol at all, much less get drunk. Unlike the dear brother mentioned before, it is not a weakness for me. I’m not even tempted.
That being the case, I have no qualms about eating in restaurants that serve alcohol. I’m not ordering it. I actually choose what some would consider a worse “poison”, that is, diet soda. I am very grateful as I enjoy my food, even if everyone at the next table all have glasses of beer or wine sitting right in plain view. My conscience isn’t harmed by it. My attention isn’t drawn to it. I don’t long for it. My spiritual life isn’t in peril at all.
When The Strong Meets the Weak
Let’s say after church one Sunday morning, I decide I want to be an encouragement to my brother, so I invite him to a local restaurant to have lunch with my family and enjoy some fellowship together. The only caveat is that even though the restaurant I have chosen has the best Italian food in town, it also just happens to serve alcohol. Now we have a problem.
Let’s say this brother immediately starts to sheepishly decline my invitation. I have no idea about the standard that he has adopted to protect himself, so I continue to press him to join us. Finally, I just flat out ask him what it is keeping him from joining us for lunch.
Then he let’s the cat out of the bag. He then informs me that his personal standard is that he does not eat in restaurants that serve alcohol, and he shares a little bit of his personal testimony about being saved from a life of alcoholism, and how that God is strengthening him continually even though it is still a temptation for him.
Putting Weakness in Peril
Now here is where Romans 14 comes in. I have a decision to make.
First, I could despise him. I could begin laughing and poking fun at his “standard.” “What!? You don’t eat in restaurants that serve alcohol? It’s not like we are going in there to drink. I can eat at that restaurant. It doesn’t bother me at all!”
Now, with a bit of embarassment, he acquiesces to my request and joins us for lunch. We have a wonderful meal, and not one drop of alcohol is served at our table. We have a great time of fellowship.
Later that week, this brother has had a long day at work. He’s hungry. He’s tired. Some of his co-workers call him over after work and say, “Hey, man! We’ve had a tough day today, and some of the guys are going to go unwind and grab a bite to eat. Would you like to come?”
He comes to find out they are going to the exact same restaurant where we had lunch on Sunday. He remembers how everything went so well, and so he starts slacking on his standard of not eating in restaurants that serve alcohol. He gives in and joins his co-workers for dinner.
While he’s there, some of the people at the table order some beer. There they are, right in front of his face. They tell him, “Go ahead. Order a drink. This one’s on me.” At first he resistant, but after some persuasion, he caves. He doesn’t just have one beer, he has three. He continues on and gets plastered, and ends up making some very foolish decisions that night.
Now my question is this. Was I showing love to my weaker brother when I encouraged him to forego his standard? No, I was not. I helped put him in a position later in the week where his weakness was tested and he failed the test. My despising of him led to the damaging of his conscience and the ruin of his testimony.
A Better Way
So now let’s rewind to the point where he reveals to me his standard about not eating in restaurants that serve alcohol. This time, I rejoice with him in the fact that he’s been saved from that lifestyle. Instead I tell him that my relationship with him is more important to me than what restaurant we go to for lunch. I then suggest that we stop by Mickey D’s and grab a burger. We can have our fellowship, his conscience is not weakened, and the standard for protection stays firmly in place. Later disaster averted.
Now, this is not to say that this would be his standard for the rest of his life. As he grows as a Christian and becomes more dependent on the grace of God, he may reach a point where he would “loosen” his standard and eat at restaurants that serve alcohol again.
The entire point is that we are to exercise love when we deal with weaker Christians. It is the responsibility of established believers to forego things they may well enjoy without falling into sin for the sake of a weaker brother. This is the attitude that honors and glorifies God.
Next time, we will turn the tables around and see how a weaker brother should react to the strong.