“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” Romans 14:17-18
My church has started the year with a series on fasting, and for the first time in my life, I’ve regularly participated in this spiritual practice. While it’s been challenging, I’ve been so moved by the small changes taking place in my heart, particularly with where I’m focusing my attention throughout the day.
Our society is consumed with the idea of eating and drinking. While I love good food and a good cup of coffee like I’m sure you do, if we pause and take a second to think about how often we think about food throughout the day, I am sure we’d all be surprised just how much daily attention we give to what we eat.
And not only are we regularly bombarded by images and messages about food, but everywhere you turn, there are rules around what foods are good or bad, what you should eat or shouldn’t, how much to eat or how little to eat.
Early Christians in Rome were wrestling with the same issues when Paul was writing to them. The Church in Rome was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, who each had big ideas about what to eat (or not), when to eat (or not), and these ideas often caused contention between members.
In Romans 14, Paul sees how the Church’s rules around food and holidays are keeping them from loving one another, and therefore loving God. He writes in verse 13 and 17-18: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister […] For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Paul calls believers to put aside their differences and instead consider others more important than themselves. He says that no one should spend their time judging others and instead should focus on how to care for and build them up.
This is such an important message. We so often get bogged down by the rules of our lives that we miss the living, breathing, beautiful person in front of us. We might think that a rigid structure is what makes us righteous in God’s eyes, but what makes up the Kingdom of God is the way we love and care for one another as Christ loves and cares for us.
When we focus on serving and loving others as a way to honor the Lord, we step into alignment with what God has for us and bless those around us.