Romans 14 and the Coronavirus

The following article is not intended to be a rebuke or correction of problems in the church. MBC has handled itself very well throughout the many difficult decisions that have had to be made as a result of the Coronavirus. The church members are to be commended for their graciousness during this challenging time.

The problems addressed in Romans 14 are identified as matters of conscience, gray areas or matters of indifference. The Roman church was conflicted because of various personal standards held by different believers. How does one Christian respond to another who has a different conviction on matters not clearly spelled out in the Bible? Romans 14 answers that question.

Apparently Christians in Rome held different beliefs about eating meat. Some felt they had the liberty to eat all things. Some did not have this liberty, and ate only vegetables. Paul taught the church that dietary differences should not be a matter of division or strife between Christians.

Romans 14 does not say why some of these Christians would not eat meat. Jewish Christians may have refused to eat meat lest they unintentionally ate something which was unclean. Some Christians may have refused to eat meat lest they accidently eat something which had been offered to idols. It seems likely their personal standards were based upon Biblical principles. Paul’s instructions to the Roman church struggling with contention are helpful to our understanding of how to handle differences of opinion today.

The differences covered by Romans 14 are not disagreements over clear matters of Biblical truth or sin. Romans 14 addresses differences of opinion about how to apply Biblical truth in situations where the right response is not readily apparent. Romans 14 covers matters in which well meaning, faithful Christians disagree about the best way to obey Biblical principles in a particular situation.

The responses of Christians and churches to the coronavirus is an example of a Romans 14 kind of issue. The questions related to the virus and the response to it are complex. Believers are struggling to balance issues of wisdom that does not needlessly endanger others, honor and obedience to the governing authorities, obedience to the Word of God and love for fellow believers that seeks to care for their physical and spiritual well being. The complexities of these issues makes it impossible for a single answer to fit every situation. Often, the complexities make it impossible for two Christians to agree on the right answer for a particular situation. Romans 14 needs to be applied like lubricating oil to the place where those differences meet.

How should Christians who sincerely hold to different opinions on the right response to the Coronavirus treat one another? Romans 14 teaches several key principles:

  • Do not argue about the issue (Romans 14:1)
  • Do not condemn or belittle those who hold to a different opinion (Romans 14:3)
  • Be fully convinced that what you are doing is pleasing to God (Romans 14:5; 22-23)
  • Do everything for the Lord (Romans 14:7-8)
  • Remember, you will not be judged for the decisions of others, but for your own- including how you treat those who hold opinions different from your own (Romans 14:10-14)
  • Do not lead your brother to do something he thinks might be sin (Romans 14:13, 21)
  • Right fellowship with God and others is not based on physical things- like agreement on food, disease or sanitation- but on righteousness, joy and peace. (Romans 14:17-19)
  • Do everything to promote Christlikeness. (Romans 15:1-2)

Do not let differences over matters not clearly spelled out in Scripture divide, produce conflict or create animosity. Continue to treat one another with grace. Remember the work of the church is to glorify God by edifying believers and preaching the gospel.