When Opinions Become Facts: Welcoming the Weaker Brother in Love (Romans 15:1-2)
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. —Romans 15:1-2
Let’s jump in and ask some questions of this text in order to understand what Paul is saying. It should be noted, first of all, that Romans 15:1-2 belongs in chapter fourteen as a continuation of the argument that Paul began making there. (Remember that the chapter and verse divisions in your Bible were not inspired.)
Now, who are the “strong” and “weak” that Paul is talking about? This is referring to matters of conscience. Chapter fourteen verse one says, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” Verse five says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Paul seems to be saying that man’s opinions about what is right and wrong determine objective truth about what is right and wrong. Is that actually what he’s saying? Verse 14 says, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” So, it is objectively sinful to violate the conviction of your own conscience, which is specific to each person and given by the Holy Spirit.
This is a matter of love versus hate. Verse 15 says, “If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” The principle is, don’t do anything that would jeopardize another’s faith, but instead, seek to build them up in love. It is also clear that this is a matter of faith versus unbelief. The verse right before our Fighter Verse passage tells us, “Whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Acting with faith in love, then, is how we will obey the first two verses of chapter fifteen: “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.”
Here are four principles drawn from this text:
Remember that you are free in Christ. The gospel affords you perfect freedom. The most important thing you can do is honor your own conscience before the LORD, and it isn’t necessary or important to convince anyone else of the convictions he has given you. Rest easy, even as you encounter others with different convictions.
Remember to count others as more significant than yourself. The crazy thing about doing that is that God can make it second nature for you. He can so fill your heart with love for others that you are willing to set aside your own freedoms for the sake of their joy in God. Don’t fear what you will lose by loving people; rejoice in what you will gain, instead.
Remember that making allowance for sin is never good for your neighbor. Again, the verse says to “please your neighbor for his good…” Friends challenge and push each other to die to their own desires and live sold out for Jesus. The “pleasing” we are called to is not superficial, but will require us to sacrificially die to our own selves and call others to do the same.
Remember why you are loving your neighbor in the first place. Verse two ends, “…to build him up.” Love for your neighbor is born from love for God. If you are persuaded that people need God more than anything else, then you will do whatever it takes to give them more of God, including dying to your own desires.
Why does your heart struggle to “bear with the failings” of the weaker brother? What can you do to fight this?
Do you struggle with guilt over your own convictions because of other people? Why do you think you do?
What evidences can you point to in your life that you have put another’s faith above your own comfort?