What are we supposed to do with this? It appears first to place us into a quandary, because here in the middle of Paul talking about how we should keep things to ourselves, do everything to preserve peace amongst our brethren, not judge one another, and not cause one another to fail in the weaknesses of our faiths, there appears to be the admonition to stand up for a doctrinal point that we believe is right. Certainly, I have more than once met a person who will quote this verse as a justification for publicly (and sometimes heatedly) defending his or her views or attacking other views. And more problematic than that, you do not have to think about this very long before you figure out that if we persist in this vein, we will soon all be at each other’s throats.
But it seems to me that when taken in context, what Paul is saying is that we need to make sure the strength and goodness of our faith is not exercised carelessly, such that it brings damage to another good (yet weaker) faith, which would end up causing our good faith to be viewed and spoken of as a bad thing. In more simple terms, our good beliefs can have bad effects, and we must be careful not to let this happen. This admonition of Paul is the same admonition he is making over and over again in various ways throughout the chapter. There is no quandary. We have misused the sixteenth verse to promote our own views, rather than to censor our own views. It is another thing we have gotten backwards.
Reading through the fourteenth chapter, I am unable to escape the idea that if we all followed Paul’s advice given therein, then eventually we would all pretty much end up sitting around with nobody ever complaining about another person’s faith. We would all simply consider each other brothers and sisters in God, trusting in him to accept our individual faiths as they are. It also strikes me that, after some thought, one is inclined to make a statement that is far too outlandish for us to accept: That when it comes to living as a Christian who has a strong enough faith, we can do anything in faith that we care to do, and remain in sound relationship with God. I will admit that this is a pretty crazy conclusion, and honestly I don’t think I personally know anybody who would agree with it. But, come to think of it, it is a claim that (in the sixth and tenth chapters of First Corinthians) Paul seems to accept as true.
SO FAR, Romans fourteen is tons of fun if you happen to be a Christian who believes in liberty. But the fact of the matter is, for those who value liberty, this chapter has a down side that demands a great deal—too much for some to bear. Such will be the point of discussion in part three of The Weak and the Strong.