“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, NIV84)
It doesn’t take long for the Christian church to mess things up. We begin to focus on the wrong things and defend positions of practice rather than principle, and then the train gets derailed. In this section, Paul is dealing with practice issues. What are Christians free to do (e.g., eat meat, recognize holy days, etc.)? Today, we might find ourselves talking about church administration design, contemporary worship, etc. All these things are right and worthy of discussion as long as we don’t forget the principle behind the practice. The only way to prevent “throwing the baby out with the bath water” is to remember that there was a reason for the bath in the first place. All church/Christian practices should be based on the spiritual truth principles that birthed them in the first place.
So, Paul reminds the Roman church (and you and me) that the principles of the kingdom of God need to be at the root of all Christian practices. When we keep this important principle in mind, we then can have healthy discussions rather than debates and division over practical issues. Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is about spiritual truths like grace, forgiveness, hope, peace, joy and truth. Our practices must promote these principles or they must be changed. Our discussions over practices must be seasoned with these spiritual truths.
Finally, may we always remember that even when we are talking about practices, it is the Holy Spirit that needs to be in control. The Spirit’s desire and will is more important than our thoughts and opinions. May the Spirit of God lead us by kingdom principles and help us to establish kingdom practices.