Monday, 6 January 2014

Looking after the 'weaker' brother

In Romans 14, Paul discusses the issue of when different people have different views about what is sinful. For one person not celebrating certain festivals might cause their consciences to give them trouble, whereas for another it won't matter to them at all. These issues are ones that are not explicitly dealt with in scripture, or ones where neither stance is wrong.

In Romans 15 Paul continues this theme, writing in verse 1:
"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves."
Patience, Love and Humility.
When we find people who have different views on certain things, It seems to me that patience, love and humility are the rules we need to follow.

Paul says the strong, (i.e. those who'd consciences let them do a certain thing) need to bear with the failings of the weak. The first thing that comes to mind is patience - they need to be patient with those people who can't do the same things because of conscience. They need to work with those people and help them not to stumble.

For example, if Jack thinks drinking alcohol is absolutely fine biblically, but Bill has a problem with it, then Jack needs to be patient with Bill. He shouldn't just tell him why he's wrong and expect Bill to change automatically. He should carefully discuss the issue with Bill when it's appropriate.

This takes love. We can be as patient as we want with someone, but if we don't love them we won't get very far. We need to care for those who are in need around us - and that includes those who have doubts about certain activities in their consciences. We need to love them even though they have these "failings" - not just throw them away because they disagree. We need to genuinely want to help them and to better them. That may even mean leaving the topic alone. Either way, it will probably mean that the stronger person should give up their privilege to prevent the weaker one from sinning or getting even more confused.

Continuing with our Jack and Bill scenario, Jack should love Bill enough to take the time to carefully and prayerfully discuss their different views on alcohol. Jack should also care enough for Bill that he'll be prepared to at least not drink while Bill is around.

And that takes Humility. We need to be ready to give up our privileges for the sake of those around us, and not to be proud about being "stronger" than someone else. The truth is, we're all weak in some areas. We need to be empathetic with those who have different opinions, being ready to give up what we enjoy out of our love for them. It also involves being ready to point to Christ instead of to our own convictions and ideas.

These three areas are ones that I continue to struggle with. I find it easy to get frustrated with people, especially when I try to reason with them, but they don't seem to be listening. I find it hard to love people who don't really listen, and above both of those, I find it hard to be truly humble - not seeking people's praise for my 'humility', but I really struggle to just point to Jesus in everything, and to his grace.

Where can you apply this to your life? Are there specific scenarios where you're doing something that might be causing a brother or sister in Christ to get confused, r even to sin by following your lead against their consciences?

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