We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. (Romans 15:1-2)
I suppose it’s obvious that spiritually speaking, Christians differ in their spiritual strength. Some of very young believers, others are mature. Some have great strength and knowledge of God’s truth in His word, others are just beginning to learn that truth. Some have little history of trusting God through difficult times, others have grown strong through many hardships.
Are you a strong Christian? If so, hear what the Holy Spirit says to you: we then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. If you consider yourself strong in comparison to your brother, use your strength to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of using your “strength” just to please yourself. You should think of how you can use your superior strength to support and help your weaker brother. That’s the idea of bear with.
This goes against the spirit of our age, which tells people to look out for number themselves and often despises those who live lives of real sacrifice for the sake of others. Yet undeniably Paul points the way to true happiness and fulfillment in life: get your eyes off yourself, start building up others and you will find yourself built up.
This does not mean that the church is ruled by the whims of the weak. In a healthy church, those who are weak are gently, continually challenged to grow in Jesus Christ and become stronger. There’s something wrong when weak believers stay weak for extended periods of time.
That was God’s word to the strong. Then God had something to say to every believer, weak or strong: let each of us please his neighbor. This is a simple yet challenging call to simply put our neighbor first. Paul later wrote much the same thing in Philippians 2:3–4: Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
“Wait,” someone says. “I thought we were to be concerned with pleasing God, not pleasing man. How can it be said that I should therefore please my neighbor?” The answer is found in the next few words: let each of us please his neighbor for his good. This shows that Paul did not mean being a “man-pleaser.” Such a person may want to please his neighbor, but not for his neighbor’s good.
We do this all because it leads to edification. If you’re strong in the Lord, use the strength to build others up, instead of tearing them down. That’s a great way to honor God and further the work of His kingdom.