May 12 (Reading for May 9-15: Romans 15:1-13). If you consider yourself to be strong spiritually, you could test that by evaluating the way you relate to those you consider “weak.” It is easy to relate to those who are “strong” like you. But how do you relate to the “weaker” brother, who may be much more legalistic in his faith that you are? Paul helps us in our self-evaluation in 15:1-2, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” As you “bear with the failings of the weak,” do you expect him to act like you, to change in order to please you before you can relate to him? Or are you willing to accept him where he is, and relate to him, there, in a way that will build him up?
When we relate to the weak in this manner, Paul said we are in good company: “For even Christ did not please himself” (v. 3). Jesus always sought to meet the needs of people. The following is adapted from the conclusion of “We Love Because God First Loved Us” (pages 149-150). “To accept the assignment of reciprocal living is to accept a lifestyle that is totally unselfish. We can only do that by following Jesus’s example. Paul challenged us to bear the weaknesses of others, striving to please them and not ourselves. When we please our neighbor in a way that will make him stronger, we are being Christlike. Jesus told us the extent to which He lived for others: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11).
Two reciprocal principles are expressed in today’s reading. The first principle, “Be of the same mind with one another” (v. 5, NASB) is having the same love and care for everyone. Here is another excerpt from the book (adapted from pages 122-123): “Is that hard to do? Of course it is! Did Jesus love the man driving nails into His hands any less than He loved John who stood at the foot of the cross? We cannot image that kind of love; yet Jesus has asked us to love like that. Paul said that when God encourages us to treat one another equally, He gives us the perseverance to see it through. He will empower us by His Spirit to have the same love and care in our relationships with one another. Unity in the church will replace pride and jealousy. We will not always think alike or do the same things, but we will go in the same direction because we are submissive to the leadership of the same Spirit!”
The second principle is: “Accept one another just as Christ accepted you” (v. 7). We again go to the book: “Accepting one another has something in common with loving and forgiving one another. We are told that we are to love one another and forgive one another as Christ loved and forgave us. In the same way, we are to accept one another ‘just as Christ accepted us.’ He accepts us—just as we are—by His grace! He does not ask us to first clean up our act and get rid of the burdens that have exhausted us. He accepts us, as we sometimes say, ‘warts and all!’ Should we not therefore show that same grace in our acceptance of others? If God accepted us based on merit, we would be in big trouble. Yet, we sometimes want people to earn (deserve) our acceptance before we are willing to accept them” (adapted from pages 120-121).
The book concludes on page 152 with this affirmation: “We can do this, because “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).
– Al Gary
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