The Christian in Christian Relationships (Romans 15:1-2)
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. —Romans 15:1-2
We live in a connected world. The once hyper-individualistic flavor of Western culture has conceded to the value of social networks. Friends are assets and the more you have, some say, the better chances you have for success.
This is not entirely untrue. Everyone can vouch that relationships are full of giving and receiving. And oftentimes this brings us joy—the good and healthy kind. But what if we shifted our perception of relationships a little? What if we abandoned the ebb and flow feel that seems so natural? What if we intentionally looked through a different lens? What if it was the lens of Romans 15:1–2?
Hearing the Imperative
Then relationships become mission. There is a holy intentionality. That’s what Paul says here: “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” The imperative is to please them, to accommodate them, to make their welfare of higher interest than our own.
To please our neighbor is to serve them. Undoubtedly, this will be for our own joy—no one is really served when it’s done in stiff reluctance. But it being for our joy doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable. Pleasing our neighbor will take sacrifice. It’s not always easy—it’s not “to please ourselves.” We’re giving something up for something better and that better is the building up of our brother or sister.
This sacrificial building up of one another is what makes Christian friendship, well, Christian. It’s Christian in the adjective: sacrificial. And it’s Christian in the verb: building up.
The relationship goes beyond the latest scores (though it may involve that), or the newest app (though that may be a part, too), or the best book we’ve read (another good one). The mission is to build them up. This is what the verb’s about. It’s about their conformity to Jesus. This is the goal. Our little place in their life is to serve the goal to which God has elected them, Jesus has died, and the Spirit is working.
And for the adjective, sacrificial, building up is Christian in its manner. The foundation to our serving, our sacrificial edifying of others, is rooted in the example of Jesus. He didn’t give prevalence to his own comfort when he prayed in the Garden. It wasn’t easy when he bore our sins and suffered the wrath we deserved. Yet even in the midst of the pain there was a joy set before him. It wasn’t easy, but it was glorious. And when we walk in that example, it works the same way. It shocks the world for the glory of God.
Let each of us, then, please our neighbor for their good—count them more significant than ourselves, and their needs more pertinent than our own; to build them up—play the God-ordained role of a means of grace in their lives, investing in their transformation into the likeness of Jesus.
1. Think about someone you can sacrificially build up today, for his or her good.
2. Consider those who have sacrificially built you up. Give God thanks!