“Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Romans 14:13-14
I’m sure I will interpret this scripture differently than many out there, but as it seemed to be saying exactly what I was thinking when I read it, I’ll share my thought. Earlier in the chapter, the writer talked about how some people considered one day to be special while others treated every day the same. I’m guessing this is talking about one of the 10 commandments to keep the sabbath day holy. Some people believed this to be a commandment while others didn’t. Another example given together was regarding food and dietary laws that people had. Some people believed it was wrong to eat meat while others thought that it was good to eat meat. The writer said that people should decide what they believe and then live it. So long as they act according to their belief, they do it “unto the Lord”.
Then, the writer, Paul, counseled the people not to judge others but to leave that for God. We all may have different opinions about things and choose to live our lives differently, but it is not for us to decide that someone else is in the wrong. If we believe something is wrong and we do it, then we are the ones at fault. If someone else believes the same action to be good and can do it with a clear conscience, then we should let it go. Judgment is not for us.
I have always loved the teaching that God looks at the heart rather than on the outer appearance. If God is going to judge me someday, I hope he will consider how I lived according to my beliefs more than how I did not always live and act according to the beliefs of others. Perhaps I am wrong about some or many of my beliefs, but I am following my conscience and doing what I believe is right. It hurts that others want to judge me for doing what I believe is right, but if I find myself before God someday, I will be able to say that I lived according to what I believed.
Recently, there has been much talk about same-sex marriage. I’ve already shared my beliefs about that in some detail, but I’d like to say one more thing. I know that many in the LGBT community have been fighting so hard for marriage equality because they believe this is right and good for them. At the same time, many Christians have been fighting against it, also because of firm beliefs. Somehow though, if there is a time when we all stand before God to be held accountable for our actions, I feel that God will accept many from both sides. There are two groups of people living according to what they believe is right and good.
I don’t want to tell either side to stop living according to their conscience, but I think that many Christians especially need to back up and think carefully. Paul says that nothing is inherently unclean, but if you believe something is unclean, it is for you. Jesus taught that “for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” (Matthew 7:2) Why would that be? I think that this is because if God judges people according to their beliefs, then the way they judge others best reflects their own beliefs. If beliefs and judgments do not align, then this is hypocrisy – something which Jesus strongly condemned.
The more I read the scriptures lately, the more I see the consistency of this idea. I may be wrong, and most homosexuals, including myself, will find ourselves in some kind of hell, despite the fact that so many of us are really just trying to do what we personally feel is right. Honestly, I’m not even certain that God exists, though I tend to believe that he does. What I do know though is that I am doing my best to live my conscience. If I face God someday, I believe I will be held accountable for the things I personally believed. Because this judgment is personal, between me and God, nobody else should have any say in it. Don’t worry about my soul. Worry about your own.
Finally, we need to be careful not to become each other’s stumblingblocks, as it says in Romans 14:13. If my friend firmly believes that eating meat is morally wrong, should I tell him to eat some meat anyway? Should I tell him that it doesn’t matter? If someone believes that spending even a dollar on a Sunday is bad, should I try and persuade him to go against his conscience? If a gay friend believes that by getting married, he can finally be right with God and have a clear conscience, should I tell him that his marriage is meaningless and not a real marriage? My interpretation may be wrong, but this is what I feel the scriptures are telling me today.