13 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. 14 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. 15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Romans 14:13-15
Paul addresses those who have a “strong” conscience because they are the ones who have a choice in these third-level matters. Those with a “weak” conscience do not have choice: they have to listen to their conscience and not eat meat (to use Paul’s example). However, the strong can either eat meat or not eat meat. To show that they are more mature believers, they should be willing to give up their freedom so that they don’t destroy the faith of another Christian.
Notice that Paul does not say that the “weak” brother is upset or irritated at the freedoms of the stronger Christian. The term “stumblingblock” means causing the weaker brother to fall away from God. While “grieved” in verse 15 carries the idea of mourning because he has sinned against God. “Destroy” means the weaker brother has turned away from God because of this problem, and is danger of being totally lost.
Again, Paul puts emphasis on the persuasion of our conscience. He says that he is 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. If a person believes some action to be a sin, yet does it anyway, God counts it a sin, even though there is no law in the Bible. God never wants anyone to sin against their conscience.
We must respect the consciences of others. If we have opportunity, we can slowly help them train their conscience to be more in line with God’s standards, but we must never compel someone to sin against his conscience. Freedoms can never be forced upon one whose conscience will not allow it.
“Weak” conscience Christians are not to impose their rules on everyone else in the church. It is a serous sin to try to bind someone else’s conscience with a rule that does not come from God. We must reject any attempt by anyone to force the church to obey a commandment that doesn’t come from God.
J.D. Cowley writes, “If a brother doesn’t like my freedoms, that is his problem. But if a brother falls into sin because of my freedoms, that is my problem. Christ gave up his life for that brother; am I unwilling to give up my freedom for him?