When you look around you while sitting in a church service, you will generally have a sense of who is who. You know who the nice people are, who the grumps are and who always causes trouble. You know the people who always ask silly questions, and you know the people that always seem to know what to say when you are helpless. You might have an idea of who is a strong Christian and who has ways to go.
We all do.
What does the Bible say about strong and weak Christians? In Romans 14, Paul gives us an answer to this question. If you are anything like me, his answer might surprise you:
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. (Romans 14:1-2, ESV)
Paul is saying here that the weaker Christian is the kind of person who has lesser freedom in Christ. They think that those who eat meat aren’t real Christians and they need to learn. They are bound by their conscience to obey additional rules to honor the Lord.
This is very interesting because our natural inclination is to see those with a zeal for good, Christian rules as more mature in the faith. If you are exhorting others to do this and stop doing that, you are more likely to be viewed as a mature Christian. However, the Bible says that the opposite is true. Strong Christians have a greater freedom in the gospel than their weaker brothers. Their conscience doesn’t prevent them from doing certain things. Their legalistic tendencies are minimal.
A great example before you go: in Acts 10, Peter is told to eat unclean animals. These animals were unclean according to the law which was now fulfilled in Jesus.
But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” (Acts 10:14, ESV)
Peter’s conscience is weak and needs to be redeemed by the Holy Spirit. This is a great example of a weak person becoming stronger in the faith.