15 Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.
The concern of Paul is that the mature believer should limit his liberty so as to not grieve the immature believer.
“Yet” is the Greek word for. Verse 15 links to verses 13 and 14.
if your brother is grieved because of your food,
There are Christians who hold scruples about eating certain foods. The weak here are grieved over the believer who has freedom in Christ to eat certain foods. The mature may damage the immature in their development in the faith (v. 19). The strong need to be aware of this because it might blunt the growth of the weak. If the mature believer eats those foods in the immature believer’s presence and then grieves his brother, the issue is no longer food but the weaker Christian’s conscience. His perception of the mature believer’s seeming inconsistency might lead to spiritual disaster. This is an issue of the weaker brother’s personal integrity. His fundamental conviction is at stake.
“Grieved” does not refer to the feelings of the immature believer but to his actual spiritual harm. We are not dealing with injured pride here. The idea is more of an injured conscience. Good spiritual decisions are not based on feelings but on facts. Taking the approach of trying to guess if actions might wound an immature believer’s feelings would virtually eliminate the mature believer’s freedom and liberty in the Christian life. The true issue here is whether the mature believer’s action would actually or truly cause the immature Christian to stumble.
you are no longer walking in love.
A Christian who hurts or grieves another Christian does not walk in love. There is an immediate danger of demoralizing the weaker Christian. The “walk” here refers to a course of life, not an event. The issue is a pattern of life.
Love is the proper motivation for the mature limiting his freedom in Christ. Mature Christians make decisions on the principle of love; that is, on the principle of thinking of other people first rather than oneself. We are to think about how our actions affect others. Mature Christians can be flexible; they can adapt to others. It is difficult for legalistic and rigid immature believers to be flexible.
Do not destroy [ruin] with your food the one for whom Christ died.
It is possible to destroy or ruin the spirituality of the weaker Christian by not giving him time to grow in his full liberty in Christ. Mature Christians need to develop an empathy toward the weaker. We should not tamper with the immature Christian’s conscience.
The word “destroy” does not mean that the weaker Christian will lose his salvation. The idea is that harm to his conscience will retard his growth in Christ. The Greek word for “destroy” does not mean to make extinct, but refers to loss of well-being rather than being. By not taking care in how we approach weaker Christians, we can seriously stunt their spiritual growth.
The idea of “for whom Christ died” is that if Jesus loved the immature believer enough to die for him, then it would be reprehensible for the mature believer to not sacrifice his personal liberty for the weaker believer. Christ demonstrated His love for all when He died for sinners; He did not die for saints because there were none. He is our pattern for loving the weak Christian.
The principle of love takes precedence over the principle of liberty.
The one dynamic that brings people together is love. The principle of love takes precedence over the principle of liberty. The immature believer’s well-being is more important than the mature believer’s spiritual rights.
Obstacles to the weak in faith are to be removed by the strong. The mature should not contribute to the blunting of the weaker brother’s faith. There are mature believers who are so dominating about their liberty that they flaunt it against fallacious legalism. Our relationship to others is determined by our appreciation for the one who died for our sin.
An important qualification to giving deference to the weaker Christian is whether he truly stumbles over liberty or just wants to maintain his legalistic attitude toward Christianity. The mature cannot always allow what they do to be dictated by legalism. Some beliefs are mere prejudices.
Titus was a case in point at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:10-11). The Council determined that it was not necessary for men who came from Gentile background to be circumcised, although some held prejudices toward this end. The Council did not allow legalism on this subject (Ga 2:3).