November 9, 2023

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.


Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


Romans 14:13-23


The greatest way that we can fall short of making Jesus the main thing in our lives is when we get so caught up in our own personal convictions that we cause other people to stumble in their faith. The struggles around eating in Romans 14 are all tied up in the Jewish theology that certain foods are clean and certain foods are unclean. Paul is saying that in Christ, everything is clean, so it is of no consequence what people eat. That’s a preference. If the preference becomes so strong that it supersedes the importance of Jesus, then there is a stumbling block in place.


Paul is calling the Roman church to pursue peace and mutual upbuilding, maintaining true faith without condemning others. What does this actually look like in practice, though? During my time at Highland Park Pres in Dallas, I got to spend a lot of time watching Bryan Dunagan lead. He was very intentional about listening to people’s concerns and turning those concerns back into clarifying questions. Asking questions was disarming and often ended up deescalating conflict so that Jesus could be the main thing. Leadership often came with conflict, and he was not afraid of that conflict, but he engaged in it with a Christ-centered approach.


There was a time where I got left out of a meeting I felt that I should have been part of. I went to Bryan and confronted him about it (respectfully, I hope). He sat there, listened to what I was upset about, and then started asking me questions. As silly as it sounds, I realized as we were talking that I didn’t need to be in that meeting in the first place, and my pride was getting in the way, becoming a stumbling block that inhibited me from living into the grace and humility of Christ.


Bryan could have told me that I was being young and stupid. Instead, he didn’t condemn me; he loved me where I was, just like Jesus does. He lifted me up and pursued peace, and because he did so, I learned.


How often do we let little things supersede making Jesus the main thing? Those little things, small as they might appear, can become big stumbling blocks to our faith and to the faith of others. We are not called to condemn others for their choices, personality, or any other piece of who they are. Confrontation is necessary sometimes, but when we approach it through peace and mutual upbuilding, and without condemnation, we can help others grow by keeping Jesus the main thing. I truly believe that if we let Jesus lead us to live this way, the world will be changed by people feeling loved and like someone believes in them.

For Reflection

Are there any stumbling blocks in your life or things that you are worried about becoming stumbling blocks?


How can you keep Jesus the main thing through peace and mutual upbuilding this week? Do you need to have some conflict without condemnation in order to do so?


What would it look like for you to identify stumbling blocks and to ask Jesus to replace them this week?


Holy Spirit, please fill me with your presence today. Open my eyes to see where there are stumbling blocks or potential stumbling blocks in my life that could keep me from putting you first. Help me to see what a life that is rooted in you looks like so that I can pursue peace and the mutual upbuilding of my community today. All of the glory and honor are yours King Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Wes Nichols
Pastor for Belong