Sweat the Small Stuff—And It’s All Small Stuff

By J.D. Walt

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 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 14:1–4 (NIV)

Consider This

They were waiting for chapter 14. These Roman followers of Jesus would have listened carefully to all of the prior thirteen chapters, looking for clues as to how Paul was going to deal with their $64,000 question: How was Paul going to deal with our big problems?

What would Paul say about eating meat, drinking wine, and keeping Sabbath laws? It was tearing the community apart and they could not come to any peace around it. They had arrived at the place of irreconcilable convictions.

In one corner were the Jews (best we can tell). They brought with them the Law and all its requirements of circumcision, dietary restrictions, and the observance of the Sabbath. 

In the other corner were the Gentiles. They were the newcomers to the faith. They had no problem with food and drink—meat and wine, and they weren’t about to get circumcised and keep Sabbath. 

The Jews would have been regarded as the “weaker” in faith because they could not abide letting go of their Jewishness with all the rites, rituals, and culture. In fact, they expected the Gentiles (i.e., the stronger ones) to adopt their customs as a matter of requirement. The Gentiles weren’t having it. They knew they didn’t have to become Jews in order to follow Jesus. And they looked down on the Jews because they would not let go of the old in order to live in the new covenant.

The Jews were struggling to keep fellowship with the Gentiles because of this and took great offense at the brazen insensibility of their ways. In fact, they likely both considered the other infidels. 

This is the big brouhaha in the little church of a hundred in the midst of the million lost souls in Rome. This is why Paul wrote the letter to begin with. This hostile dispute is the pretext and subtext and the real reason we have this most famous letter ever written.

You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.” It’s not true. This is a story of how the little things turn out to be the big things. 

For Paul, the big picture of winning Rome came down to this tiny community and their relationships. Could they, in their relationships with each other, witness to the reconciliation of the gospel in Jesus Christ? Everything, in a sense, was on the line. 

That’s on the docket for this week, wrestling through the small things that turn out to be the big things in Jesus’s name. It may even lead us to see the same trends and troubles in our own day and age. 

We will see, in the end, that it’s not really about meat and wine and sabbath at all, but about their relationships and the love of Jesus unleashed therein. We are going to see the righteousness of God unveiled and revealed in the most important mission field of all: our relationships inside the church. We are going to discover the secret sauce of the whole project.

Our relationships are the mission.



Abba Father! Thank you for the way it all matters when it comes to following Jesus and his royal way of loving God and neighbor. Prepare us for deeper understanding of what matters most. Awaken us to the way the small things are the big things when it comes to the gospel and our relationships with each other in the church. Prepare us for the deep revelation now coming to a climax in this letter. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.