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.
I got saved as an adult, and a large part of my first several years as a Christian was spent socializing with the other young singles my age. After Friday night services we would hang out at someone’s house or go out to eat and just spend hours talking and being stupid together. I remember early on questioning whether it would be okay for me to order an alcoholic drink during those group outings to the local diner. That question always sparked debate about whether drinking was itself a sin, and that usually was my approach to answering the question. I felt cheated and judged when asked to skip a glass of wine because of what someone else thought about it when I believed that having one glass was no sin. I never stopped to think that perhaps that drink was not worth the offense or division that it might cause.
Today’s scripture tells us to pursue those things which promote peace and the building up of one another. The example is similar to what I experienced in my early walk, and it is similar to other questions we will encounter as we interact with other Christians. Common bones of contention are alcohol, secular entertainment or certain kinds of clothing. There are things that I find innocuous and of no offense to God but that other people might think are a compromise in some way. I will be challenged to show sensitivity to the convictions of others because being insensitive to those convictions could cause offense or discord. In those instances, it is not a matter of whose conviction is correct. The only question is whether I can humble myself enough to yield so that peace may be kept.
This idea of pursuing peace and mutual encouragement with the brethren is all about our appreciation for the Church body. There were times when I thought that the satisfaction I would derive from throwing back a glass of whiskey trumped the pain that my indulgence might cause in a brother or sister. I thought that only my convictions mattered for me, and I need not let others tell me how I should behave simply because I am in their presence. Biblical instruction, however, is clear that my approach was incorrect. If I truly love and appreciate the body of Christ, I will behave in a way that brings peace and avoids discord even if that means adhering to convictions I do not hold. Father, increase in us humility and love for the Church that we would gladly deny ourselves for the sake of maintaining peace and not causing offense to our brothers and sisters.