“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us is to please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.” Romans 15:1-2
- Appeal for tolerance not quarrelling
All the major doctrines of our faith are not ‘disputable matters’.
However the minor issues of our faith are all ‘disputable matters’ and it is concerning these that Paul writes about in this portion of Romans starting off in chapter 14:1-2, “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables,” Romans 14:1-2. Paul is fully aware that these ‘disputable matters’ can be turned into major doctrines which cause strife and struggle in the church. His appeal is for tolerance on these ‘disputable matters’ for the sake of unity in the body of Christ.
- Obligation of the strong in faith
In Romans 15:1-2 Paul ramps up his request from an appeal for tolerance to a non-negotiable obligation to the ‘strong in the faith, who are to ‘bear the weaknesses of those without strength’. A load-bearing wall in a building is one that literally bears the weight of the upper structures of the roof all the way down to the foundation. For the strong in faith their task is to bear the weight of those who are weaker in faith so that they too may be anchored in Christ.
Clearly in Paul’s theology strength is for serving not status.
Those who are strong in the faith are to look beyond their own needs and desires to their neighbour who needs assistance in their journey of faith.
- Don’t lose hope
As you can imagine this work of cultivating a lifestyle of tolerance in the believing Community is relentlessly tough work which can be discouraging from time to time especially when there are unexpected setbacks. Paul therefore goes on to make it clear that the Roman believers are not to lose hope and give up and neither are we, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the gift of walking and working alongside believers who share many different views on the minor issues (disputable matters) of faith. Thank you that we can gracefully agree to differ and still serve the same resurrected Jesus together.