“Green Peas and Brussel Sprouts”
Romans 14:1-12 “Green Peas and Brussel Sprouts”
Before reading: This Scripture reading and sermon from Romans is the last in the
series on Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Once again I have been reminded of how the love, grace, and righteousness of God we know in our Lord Jesus Christ saves the sinner and binds us together as the body of Christ. As you may remember, immediately before today’s passage Paul told the Roman church to owe no one anything, except to love one another and to love the other. Then Paul wrote to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Once we have put on the Lord Jesus Christ, then we can do what Paul writes about in Romans 14.
Listen to the Word of God from Romans 14:1-12.
1. People practice their faith in different ways. They may believe their
practice, how they eat, worship, or pray, is the way to serve the Lord. If you have attended different denominations, which in these unusual global pandemic days you may have electronically, you know that their worship is different from the way we Presbyterians worship, their sanctuary is arranged differently (for instance, maybe a rail between the congregation and the Lord’s table, an altar instead of a table, a baptismal pool instead of a baptismal font, etc.), or the way music an prayers are done.
Are they right, or are we right, or are both right?
Early in the church there were differences on how to be a Christian and
how to be a church. The Apostle Paul went to the heart of what it means to be the church. To whom do you belong?
2. Dr. David Bartlett gives us a key to open this passage. Dr. Bartlett writes,
“If I am right in thinking that Paul writes in response to what he knows about the Romans, one thing he knows is this: they need to be more welcoming of one another.” (122, Westminster Bible Companion)
3. The reason the Romans need to welcome those “weak in the faith” is not simply to add another rule for their community. What was happening in Rome was what was happening in many Christian communities in the early church. The Roman pagan cult worshipped their gods by offering meat to their idols. This meat was then sold in the local marketplaces and could easily be purchased by a Christian. The marketplace meat eating Christian would then eat the meat that had been offered to idols.
There was no FDA labeling at the time to require marking the meat offered to idols to protect the Christian consumer. There was nothing wrong with eating the meat offered to idols, since idols are really nothing and without power. Some Christians did not understand and believed idols had power and represented other gods believed they actually shared in the gods of the idol when one ate the idol meat. Of course, the idol meat was only meat with no special divine powers beside nutrition.
The “weak in the faith” ate only vegetables because of superstition. Those in the know who ate the idol meat may have snickered at the foolishness of the vegetarians, “Eat your green peas and brussel sprouts. That leaves more meat for us.” By choice, I am no vegetarian. I do know some people who do not like green peas! (no names!) I do love my steaks, but I would not ridicule a brother or sister whose faith does not allow them to eat meat.
Paul wrote, “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.” (14:3) If God has welcomed them, don’t you think we should welcome those who are weak in faith?
I like the way Dr. Bartlett phrased this image of God:
“God is the great welcomer,
the one whose arms are always open.” (123, Ibid) The Greek word for “welcome” literally means “to take alongside oneself.” (New International Commentary of the NT, Moo, 835) If God has “taken” the weak “alongside God’s self,” then to be near to God ourselves we, too, must welcome the weak.
4. Next Paul puts the “strong in faith” in their proper place, “Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own Lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” In other words, do you the “strong in faith” put yourself in the place of their Lord, the Lord of the living and the dead?
Who are we to pass judgment on how someone else honors the Lord?
5. The Apostle Paul pointed the Roman church and us to something more important than ‘right’ belief or ‘right’ observance: relationship with God. The relationship of the servants of God with God is more important than being right. The health of the community takes precedence over right belief, over orthodoxy and orthopraxy. (483, Texts for Preaching) Let the theologians and professors worry about right belief. The particular church primarily needs to build a close relationship with God.
6. Paul claimed that no Christian has the place to condemn another Christian for practicing the Christian life in ways different from one’s self. Paul made this case for relationship with God with three points:
(1) Both meat eaters and vegetable eaters say grace before a meal. They both thank the same God. (vs. 6b)
(2) Our lives are not our own. (vs. 7) We belong to God in life and in death. (vs. 8)
(3) God is judge of all. We are not judges of our brother or sister in Christ. Paul remembers the prophet Isaiah (45:23): “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (124-125, Bartlett, Ibid)
Conclusion: Each of us will be accountable to God. (14:12)
There is a final test! The grader of that final oral test is God. We will give an accounting, or a reckoning, to God. We are the Lord’s. We belong to God. The good news is that the Lord God has welcomed us.
Both green pea and brussel sprout eaters and steak and chicken eaters,
we must welcome all in the faith, differences and all.