Saturday, August 10, 2013

Please Your Neighbor to Build Him Up

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. (Rom 15:1-2)

Yesterday in our Bible study, we were discussing Romans 15:1-7.  The passage is the summation of what Paul has been teaching on the application to "present you bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) and more directly how to love your neighbor (Rom 13:9-10).  Notice that the direct context is the gathering and fellowship of believers.  At those times, the stronger believer has an obligation to not just salve a fellow Christian's conscience, but act in accord with whatever will build up that person in the faith.  John Chrysostom nicely points out these things:

  • "We who are strong, ought"—it is "we ought," not "we are so kind as to."  What is it we ought to do?—"to bear with the failings of the weak."
  • See how he has roused their attention by his praises, not only by calling them powerful, but also by putting them alongside of himself.  And not by this only, but by the advantage of the thing he again allures them, and by its not being burdensome.  "For you," he says, "are powerful, and are no bit the worse for condescending.  But to him the hazard is of the last consequence, if he is not borne with.  And he does not say the failing, but the "failings of the weak," so drawing him and bending him to mercy.  As in another place too he says, "You who are spiritual restore him.” (Gal. 6:1)  Have you become powerful?  Render a return to God for making you so; and render it you will if you set the weakness of the sickly right.  For we too were weak, but by grace we have become powerful.  And this we are to do not in this case only, but also in the case of those who are weak in other respects.  As, for instance, if any be passionate, or insolent, or has any such like failing bear with him.  And how is this to be?  Listen to what comes next.  For after saying "we ought to bear," he adds, "and not to please ourselves."
  • But what he says is this.  Are you powerful?  Let the weak explore your power.  Let him come to know your strength; please him.  And he does not merely say please, but for his good, and not merely for his good, lest the advanced person should say,  "See I am drawing him to his good!" but he adds, "to build him up."  And so if you are rich or powerful, do not please yourself, but the poor and the needy, because in this way you will at once have true glory to enjoy, and be doing much service.  For glory from things of the world soon flies away, but that from things of the Spirit is abiding, if you do it to edification.  Therefore of all men he requires this.  For it is not this and that person that is to do it, but "each of you."
Homilies on Romans, 27

All who are strong have this obligation to allow the weak to test the greatness of the faith that the Spirit has given and to see the patience and humility the strong are expected to exhibit.  Self-seeking is an affront, yet even while gathered for the purpose of worship and instruction, we allow this sin to burst forth.  We enjoy pleasing ourselves: it feels good, and we want it to continue.  But this is not the way of Christ who willing bore our reproach, therefore let us confess that this works in us, both as individuals and a group, and allow God, the source of endurance and encouragement to so move
to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Rom 15:5-6)
With the result of welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed you—dead in sin, children of wrath, weak in our efforts—for the glory of God.  (Rom 15:7)

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