Reflection: Romans 14: 1 – 12
In the passage, the Roman believers were at odds about dietary preferences, and which specifically were the holy days (vv.2, 5). Paul’s solution was to point them towards being authentic (to be worthy of trust, reliance or belief). Whether it was meat that was preferred over vegetables or vice versa, or one hallowed day regarded over another, they were not to judge the individual, as each is personally accountable to God (vv. 3-4, 6, 10-12).
Paul then re-emphasized that they were to be fully convinced that whatever they decided for themselves was to honour the Lord, and not to please men (vv. 5-6; Gal 1:10). This level of truth telling and transparency before God and man raised the relational bar substantially, as it was to be expected that their deep authentic harmony with God needed to be in place before any outward expression was possible; viz., their inner life needed to be in submission to Christ before their outer authentic expression could be followed through, without the fear of man’s opinions!
Finally, he drew a lesson by turning their feeble disagreements to the death and resurrection of Christ, by pointing out that as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, the freedom they possessed outwardly, even touching the most mundane daily concerns, was to be an expression of an authentic inward reality in Christ; hence, the grace to see these differences with others in an enlightened manner as they all belonged to the Lord (vv. 7-9).
As the Roman believers’ authenticity is based on the extent of their submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, it implies that they belonged to Him, are cared for by Him, and so they ought to please Him in all that they do (v. 6-8; I Cor 6:20; 10:31-33; 1 Pet 4:11). Therefore, the quality of their servanthood and obedience to God determines the degree of their authenticity.
At the deepest level of human congruence there is an inward desire to be authentic, and a wish that our relationship with others are guileless. Alas, can we blame it on the Fall? But that position does not alleviate the problem. When our inward and outward ‘selves’ are in alignment, authenticity flourishes. The reverse is obviously hypocrisy. Many of us straddle these two states from time-to-time, with a level of consistency that challenges our values and testimony as followers of Christ. This dichotomy exacts a heavy emotional toll as it subverts the physical, mental, and spiritual homeostasis of human existence. Furthermore, if the external authentic expression is referenced to an internal one, then where or to whom is the latter’s authentic orientation focused? Life becomes egotistical and meaningless when authenticity is individuated within the self, and unrelated to the created hunger for eternal reality as humans, that gives meaning to everything (Eccl 3:11). Ultimately, it is only by abiding in Christ Jesus that we are able to express fully who we are as God meant us to be, in community with our world.