This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on September 17, 2017.
At first read, Romans 14:1-12 seems to deal with matters which no longer concern us: cultural and religion driven divisions over food laws and calendars. Once we dig into the text, though, its potential application to tensions among Christians of any era become apparent. I’ve found it useful to keep the following matters in mind, as I work with the text.
First, the situation may be more complex than we sometimes think. No doubt gentile Christians made up the majority of the Roman congregation, while Jewish Christ followers comprised a minority. It’s tempting to assume a simple division between two groups in which gentiles believe Kosher laws and the Jewish religious calendar obsolete and Jewish adherents insist on the necessity of observance.
My hunch is any number of the Gentile Christians in the Roman church had been God-fearers before becoming Christians. If so, many of them may have been inclined to take food laws and the Jewish calendar seriously. As for the Jewish component of the church, perhaps a number of them took the same tack as Paul with regard to such matters and felt free to observe or not observe the food laws and calendar.