We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. -- Romans 15:1
Monday, December 8, 2014
First of all, in context, we are talking about strength and weakness in the matter of faith. The “weak”, in this sense, are those who are, for example, perhaps overly concerned about legalistically adhering to dietary rules. Those of us who have no problem with properly cooked bacon should be sensitive to those who fear that God might be offended if they ate ham or catfish. The focus can be on anything, from drinking wine and smoking tobacco to literature and films.
A few years back, I was exiting a building where I had an encounter with some people who were as frustratingly dense as the proverbial jackass. As I was expressing my opinion via the use of the shorthand word “dumbasses”, a person I knew was entering the building. I paused in my poetic exhalations to greet this person, who proceeded to gently reprimand me for saying something vulgar in public. It was appropriate. I should have made sure that I was only heard by those who would not take offense.
What we do and say, how we live, what we tolerate and what we can ignore affects those around us. Sometimes they do need to grow up and get real. I have noticed this, though, that growing up takes time. I would not expect my four-year-old grandson to drive a car from his house to mine for a visit. I have to, as the currently more accomplished person, take his limitations, his weaknesses, and his skillset into account in our relationship. I would be pretty stupid to think that he didn’t want to see me because he never drives over.
We need to take a similar attitude with those “weaker” in the faith than we are. They aren’t trying to manipulate, condemn and find fault with us for being less strict in our approach to life. The truth is that it doesn’t hurt any of us to be careful, and we should all be extremely of wary of making excuses for immoral behavior on the basis of the “strength” of our faith.
It’s really another version of the virtue of meekness. If our faith is genuinely strong, there ought to be a lot that we don’t mind giving up on or giving in to for the sake of those around us.
And, if our faith is not so strong, practicing meekness, like any exercise, will make us stronger.