Maturity By Committee.
We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. – Romans 15:1-2 NLT
The Christian life is not a solitary excursion, but a communal effort, where we walk hand-in-hand, side-by-side with other believers on a pilgrimage of faith. This journey is meant to be done in the context of community, not in isolation. Paul’s letters were primarily written to churches, not individuals. He spent a great deal of time trying to encourage the corporate life of the local church and stressed the non-negotiable interrelationship between believers. This chapter is no different. He closed out chapter 14 with an admonition to not allow the grey areas of life to cause division within the body of Christ. According to Paul, there was nothing worth causing another believer to stumble, whether it was your right or not. Just because you have freedom to do something, doesn’t mean you should. Your first consideration should always be for the other party. Paul tells us, “We must not just please ourselves” (Romans 15:1b NLT). The Christian life is not to be self-centered, but rather it is to be selfless and sacrificial. “We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord” (Romans 15:2 NLT). Our goal should always be the edification or building up of the body of Christ, not the self-centered protection of our own rights and privileges. For Paul, Jesus was and is the greatest living example of this idea. He wrote to the Philippians, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT).
We are to have the mind of Christ. We are to adopt His attitude when it came to loving others. Jesus willingly suffered the abuse and rejection of men, and returned their disdain with sacrificial love. Paul’s desire was that the believers in Rome would follow Christ’s example and learn to live in complete harmony with one another. He wanted them to share Christ’s passion for and commitment to the spiritual well-being of others. As followers of Christ, they needed to learn to live like Christ lived, with their attention and focus on the needs and cares of others. They were to “accept each other” in the same way that Christ had accepted them. In other words, not based on merit, effort or earning. One of the unique things about the church is that it is by nature a compilation or blend of a wide variety of people from all walks of life and of varying degrees of spiritual maturity. There will be strong and weak believers present. There will be mature and immature individuals within any given body of believers. There will be rich and poor, spiritual and carnal, young and old, educated and uneducated. “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7 NLT). When we accept one another, it glorifies God, because it reveals that He is at work in our midst, providing us with the capacity to love one another in spite of our differences. He is the one who provides us with the strength to love one another whether we deserve it or not.
We must constantly remember that we are all works in process. God is not done with His transformative work in our lives. And we must constantly remind ourselves that God has chosen to renew us within the context of community. We test, try, strengthen, and encourage one another. We not only test one another’s gifts, we help bring them out. We develop the fruit of the Spirit within the context of the local body of believers. There is a method to God’s seeming madness. He knows what He is doing. As we trust His redeeming work in our lives and accept the fact that He has chosen to do it through the relationships we have with others, we will experience hope, joy and peace. We will learn that those with whom we disagree are actually tools He has placed in our lives to accomplish His transformation of our lives. “Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13b NLT). Rather than bicker and fight over petty issues like food, clothing, worship music styles, Bible translation preferences, and a host of other grey areas, we will learn to trust that God is working through our differences, blending together a wide range of personalities, gift sets, backgrounds, and opinions, in an effort to accomplish His will for us – our holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Father, thank You for the body of Christ, the local church. It is far from perfect, full of people like me, and therefore, prone to division and dissension. Help me to view it as the divine organism You ordained to accomplish Your redemptive work in the world and the transformative process You are doing in each and every one of our lives. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men