“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.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:1-4
Strength, obligation, bearing with failures of others, avoid self-pleasing: Why and how? What is the reason for the “why” and what is the application of the “how?” To do the first directive what is needed to do it? What do I need? What is the relationship between “Obligation”, “Reproach”, and the Scriptures? It looks like the first part is definitely about caring for others. Ok, got that. The next statement of pleasing our neighbor is being compared to Christ being reproached. So I could say that “bearing with the failings of the weak” has the potential of getting a bit of reproach accompanying with it-a potential downside of caring? Then at the end of this section reminds me that the “instruction” of the Scriptures brings encouragement, endurance, and hope.
I think I need to read this backwards a bit: Instruction of the Scriptures brings encouragement (literally “put courage into”) and endurance because I get to learn about and compound the “long view” (patience with the view of the certain future in Christ) in my heart through the Scriptures. With that I understand that reproach is definitely possible leaning to certainty-if only because of the principle that the follower is no better than his Master-but reproach is easier to endure because of the encouragement of the Scriptures, and that results in Hope. So now I, under obligation with a certain strength, bear with the failings of the weak-avoiding pleasing ourselves. Huh? Did I make any sense here?
I think I understand at least this from looking at the guy in the mirror: I like helping folks but from a position of authority and personal strength; I like to advise one time (maybe two) with the Holy Spirit bulb going off with instant understanding so I don’t have to deal with this again-therefore under this illustration I get to “bear with the failings of the weak” and I get to “please myself.” But maybe I am not supposed to get instant gratification from teaching/counseling-maybe I have to stay on top of this and like a wise builder keep tapping the same nail over and over again. Would I get frustrated? Probably…but that is why I have to learn endurance. And how to learn endurance? Study and immersing myself in the Scriptures is certainly one very obvious way. And the last extrapolation: I need to realize that I am or at one time “the weak” and not “the strong.” My faith wavers every so often. I need others in my life to grow in Christ. We learn and practice stuff like this in intentional fellowship, study, and community.
Father: Here is a section of Scripture where I am inclined to raise my arms and flex my bicep like I am a muscle man. Candidly, nothing could be further from the truth. My weakness abounds. The more I grow, the more I am aware of my needy and dependent heart. To be of service I need to be a humble servant. Make me in your image, Lord. Hear this prayer. AMEN.