As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions (14:1).There you go, just some of the choice tidbits from Romans 14. The message, of course, is abundantly clear. We are not to pass judgment. (I mean, seriously, how many times in that one chapter does he say that?) Instead, we are to try to welcome everyone regardless of their beliefs ("faith") and keep our own opinions to ourselves. You think it's wrong for that couple to have sex out of marriage? Well, you just keep that to yourself because they are "fully convinced" in their own minds and you have nothing to say about it. And that goes for a host of other "sins" you might want to toss out there. Just keep it to yourself. Live and let live. That's Paul's message in Romans 14. Right and wrong are determined by your own convictions, and no one should say otherwise.
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls (14:4).
Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (14:5).
Why do you pass judgment on your brother? (14:10)
Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer (14:13).
Let us pursue what makes for peace and are mutually upbuilding (14:19).
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God (14:22).
Is it? I suppose, if we weren't thinking and didn't mind labeling Paul as a lunatic that might work out. Of course, since it isn't internally consistent with the text nor consistent with the rest of Paul's writings nor consistent with the rest of Scripture, that might not be advisable.
First, the contradictions. In Romans alone Paul makes many commands, instructions on how believers are to live. If he meant "do what you are convinced is right", then he should have kept his mouth shut. I mean, what if I'm not convinced that every person should be subject to the governing authorities (Rom 13:1)? Isn't Paul being a bit judgmental telling me I should? And, look, that whole first chapter thing about suppressing the truth and futile thinking and becoming foolish and all ... come on, Paul, that's not "mutually upbuilding". And those are just a couple of examples. The book is full of judgment and conviction. All of Paul's epistles have this concept of declaring what is right in God's eyes and commanding the followers of Christ to do that. He leaves no sense of "Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind" or "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?" on those issues. And, of course, the rest of Scripture is the same. One key example: In what is considered the best known verse in the Bible, Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged." "Well," you will say, "there it is, plain as day." Is it? Then why does He follow with instructions on taking the speck out of your brother's eye, the Golden Rule, the problem of the narrow gate versus the wide gate, and how to discern a false prophet ("wolf in sheep's clothing") from the real thing? All of that is judgment, isn't it? No, if the 14th chapter of Paul's letter to Rome was intended to tell us not to judge anyone for anything, it did so in stark contrast to everything else in Scripture including Paul's own words and Christ's teaching.
So, if this does not mean "Judge not that you be not judged" in the sense that I presented it above, what is it saying?
Let's start with verse 1. The quarrels and judgment addressed here is not over what God declares to be good or bad. It is over opinions. Paul gives a examples. "One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables" (14:2). "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike" (14:5). Now, I would submit that you would be hard-pressed to find Scripture that says, "Thou shalt eat only vegetables." Indeed, being a vegetarian or a carnivore is not a matter of morality. It's ... opinion. Some people think that Good Friday (as an example) ought to be a special day set aside for special observation and others think that it's just another day. Look it up. What does the Bible say about it? I'll wait. What, you couldn't find anything? No. It's ... opinion. Paul was convinced that it wasn't sinful to eat meat sacrificed to idols. The Bible doesn't say he was wrong. Thus, it's ... opinion. On matters of opinion, let's not be judgmental. Let's be peaceable. On these matters, keep your ideas to yourself. Is it a sin to send your kids out on Halloween dressed as princesses and pirates? The Bible doesn't say. Keep it to yourself. Let's not fight about it.
There is a second thought laid out in this passage which is quite often missed. A main point is not "Keep your ideas to yourself" as much as "Don't cause others to stumble because of your ideas." "Let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother" (14:13). Don't let your freedom trip up a brother in Christ. Less about enlarging your freedoms, this passage, then, asks you to limit your freedoms for the sake of the weaker brother.
One other consideration, then. I pointed out that this passage is not commanding us to "live and let live" morally. That would violate all of Scripture. As such, it is not saying that we get to determine what is right and wrong in all things. The principle, typically derived largely from this passage, is called "Christian Liberty". This principle refers specifically to the areas in life in which God has chosen to be silent. The basic principle refers to those areas of life which are not explicitly commanded or clearly modeled from Scripture. When God chooses to be silent on something (like vegetarianism or honoring Good Friday, etc.), we ought to do the same. It becomes a matter of faith. Paul says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (14:23). Christian Liberty does not include those things that are in the Bible. So if you became fully convinced in your own mind that stealing from the local grocery store was acceptable if you were hungry (as an example), you would be doing so in direct violation of God's specific commands and this would not be covered under Paul's "opinions" category of Romans 14. This passage is not a statement of moral relativism. It is not permission for you to pick out your own version of morality. The text is in regards to opinions, matters that are not covered in Scripture. "But, abortion isn't covered in Scripture!" Well, if you can figure out how to terminate the life of a child without murdering (which is covered), you might have an argument. You don't.
It is true that there must be room for differences among people. It is true that there are those with stronger and weaker faith. It is true that we need to be careful in judgment. It is not true that the Bible endorses moral relativism or the misguided notion of "judge not at all". Don't let picking and choosing through Romans 14 lead you to that faulty conclusion. Now, if you wanted to conclude, "Well, maybe I need to keep my kids at home on Halloween because the neighbor believes it's evil and I don't want to cause her to stumble," you might be on to something there.