Romans 13–14 follows the theme and tone of the past few chapters. Moving on from discussing Salvation and our personal relationship with God, the focus of these few chapters are of a greater scale – our behaviour over a longer period of time, the law being a manifestation of His love and how we fit in with other Christians and in this world.
In Chapter 12 verse 9, Paul reiterates the main commandments within the Bible which were also laws at the time. This serves as a reminder as well as to reinforce his next point:
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already comefor you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. — Romans 13:11-12
This refers to the nearing return of Jesus, as the ‘night is nearly over’. The metaphor of being asleep describes that a lot of us – Christians or not – live as though we are oblivious to the spiritual realm. The line between righteousness and sin have been blurred and manipulated in many ways by the world and we often indulge in our own pleasures and businesses without considering the kingdom of God.
We must stay alert at all times because the devil is constantly finding ways to steal our faith and to misdirect us into sin. This can be in times where our situations and surroundings really challenge us or even when we are living in comfort and we forget about the God above us.
This also reminds me of the Parable of the Ten Virgins: we want to be alert, ready and holy when we are called by God and have ‘oil in our lamps’. In order to do so, having an on-off relationship and being in slumber does not suffice.
The next verse transitions from how we should strive to remain godly to how we should treat other believers.
The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. — Romans 14:3-4
Paul draws an analogy to the way our tastes and likings may be different at a dinner hosted by the master (i.e. God). We are again reminded not to judge others and rather, be focused on cultivating our own relationship with the Lord. It also warns us about the dangers of disparity amongst brothers and sisters as it distracts each other from our own personal relationship with God and disrupts our conflict. The devil always tries to intervene and come in where he can cause destruction.
In this analogy, it also reminds that, once again, we are not in the place of judging each other. God is the greatest and only judge of each of us.
Furthermore, it reflects on the definition of love as highlighted in 2 Corinthians. The love we have for each other should be patient and accepting. If we hold such a humble and loving attitude to those around us, we will be able to better experience God’s grace and minimise the devil’s chances of tampering with our lives.