“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’” (Romans 15:1-3 ESV).
Culture is always quick to remind us that we are numero uno, number one, the most important person in the universe. We are supposed to “go for the gusto”, get everything we can, and win at all costs. After all, if we don’t look out for ourselves, no one else will.
Even in some Christian circles we are taught to give so that we will receive. Some scriptures seem to lean that way, when removed from context, so what’s the big deal?
We can gain a lot of insight into scripture by observing the manner in which Jesus lived. What motivated Him? What were His priorities when interacting with those around Him?We can also consider what other scriptures have to say about a given subject. Scripture will not contradict itself. We must always consider contextual information.
Returning to our text, “We who are strong….” It is so easy for us to look at those words and see an excuse. “That scripture doesn’t apply to me; I’m not strong!” It’s that very idea that may lead us to have expectations rather than obligations. We expect others to do the will of God, while we claim exemption because our faith just isn’t there yet.
The problem–well, one problem– with that kind of thinking is that the majority of Christians are waiting for someone else to do the job, for someone else to build up the weak and bear with their failings. But being strong is an imperative! “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV). We are not supposed to maintain a standard of weakness.
We are supposed to grow in strength!
I remember watching The World’s Strongest Man competition on television. I was captivated by the feats that these men could accomplish. But I didn’t become the slightest bit stronger by watching them lift heavy things. Those men worked hard over a long time, starting with light weights and building up slowly.
A few years ago my doctor told me that I was obese. I was informed that I had diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. I was on a lot of medications. I had to change my diet; and I had to exercise. She sent me to a dietitian who told me how I should eat to lose weight. It didn’t matter how many times I read the diet instructions, I wasn’t going to lose weight or get the diabetes regulated if I didn’t follow the instructions. It would have been foolish for me to think that I would lose weight just because I read the instructions.
When I began exercising, all I could do was walk. Not very far. Not very fast. It would have been foolish for me to assume that I could just go out and run a marathon on day one!
So, we should constantly be ordering our lives toward strength in the Lord. We all know what needs to be done to get there, right? Our text tells us that we need to follow Jesus’ example in putting others before ourselves. Build them up. Just as with the weight lifters, we build our strength by lifting. But we are lifting up others, being strengthened as we build them up.
Blessings on your week!