Living and Dying to the Lord
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”- Romans 14:7–8
“Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), Scripture tells us, and this truth has a host of applications. In the first place, it indicates that we are not to come down hard on other believers for every obnoxious word or thoughtless behavior. We should show grace to one another, enduring the faults of our brothers and sisters in Christ that do not bring public scorn on the church or harm other believers. That does not exhaust the application of 1 Peter 4:8, however. Put more positively, our love covers a multitude of sins when we are slow to think the worst of others and quick to think the best of them. This is particularly helpful when we meet others who have different scruples than we do concerning matters that Scripture does not address explicitly. If we remember that the desire to honor God motivates those who differ with us, we will find it easier to embrace them as the Lord commands even when we cannot understand why they have a different opinion. Thinking the best of them helps us see that they seek to honor the Lord no less than we do (Rom. 14:5-6).
That is the essential point that Paul has made thus far in Romans 14:1-6, namely, that because they want to please God, we have no right to judge others or break fellowship with them if they disagree with us on minor issues. Yet let us be clear that this only applies to matters the Lord does not address directly or that we cannot clearly evaluate by the good and necessary application of those principles He does plainly reveal. For example, we cannot use Paul’s teaching to justify the toleration of adultery within the body of Christ, for Scripture repeatedly condemns unfaithfulness to one’s spouse (Ex. 20:14; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Issues related to eating and celebrating holy days, however, are different. Scripture does not speak to these issues under the new covenant specifically except to say that one may not impose a particular diet or mandatory holy days as a condition of salvation (Col. 2:16).
Paul develops the idea that those who differ on such matters are motivated in each case to honor the Lord by reminding his readers that people on both sides of the issues in question belong not to themselves but to the Lord (Rom. 14:7-8). In other words, it is not up to us to judge the behavior of others when they differ with us on issues where God is silent. That is not our job. They do not belong to us; they belong to the Lord. He is the Master and Judge, and He will weigh the hearts of His people perfectly. If He will accept those who are motivated to serve Him even though they differ with us, we can do no less.
Understanding that it is not our job to judge others who disagree with us regarding minor issues is freeing. Those with whom we differ belong to the Lord, so we can leave it in His hands to sort everything out. We are then freed up to seek the Lord and to serve Him in the best way that we can. In so doing, we are far more likely to succeed. We have enough to worry about in regard to our own obedience, so we do not need to be concerned about others when it really does not matter.
Passages for Further Study