Romans 15:1-3. 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. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
This is love: to put aside what is rightfully ours for the sake of others. This is what the Strong are called to do for the sake of the Weak. The Strong have a faith that allows them to see all things as being from God and for us. Whereas the faith of the Weak prevents them from partaking in many things because they fear sinning or unholiness.
We know from Romans 14 that the Strong in Rome were despising and judging the Weak. In other words, they were letting their liberty in Christ actually lead them away from love. But we are called to the law of love. Just as Christ did not please himself, we too are called to live for the sake of others, especially the Weak. Just as Christ took the insults aimed at God upon himself – The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me – we too must be willing to lose our honor and comfort for the sake of the kingdom.
“We were supposed to fight for Willie.”
But how? What are the practical things that the Strong must do in order to love the Weak? We find the answers back in Romans 14.
Romans 14:13. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. – Love will never put another Christian in a position where they will have to violate their conscience.
Romans 14:15, 21. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love… It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. – Love will never grieve a brother or sister in Christ over these matters of faith in practice. If they are abstaining, you should too. Period. Move slow with them. Like holding your little brother’s hand while walking in the woods. Don’t move so fast or into such rough territory that you cause him to fall down. That’s not love.
Romans 14:15, 20. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died…. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. – God is at work in the Weak Christian’s life, and love will let God do this work and not get in the way by demanding our own liberties over love. God will get them from Weak to Strong, and not by you offending their conscience in the name of “liberty.”
Romans 14:16. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil…The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves – Love will not push its liberty onto another person. If the Weak looks at your behavior as evil, stop the behavior! Keep your liberty between you and God. Don’t even bring it up around the Weak. For example if a Christian is telling you how much they think R rated movies are wrong, don’t turn around and say “There’s nothing wrong with R rated movies, I watch them all the time.” Just keep quiet.
“To live is Christ” is indeed liberty. It is freedom. But real freedom in Christ is the freedom to NOT exercise my freedom. Real freedom is the ability to put love above liberty. To bind my liberty with love’s demand – the demand of the life of Christ that calls for self-sacrifice and submission to the conscience of my brothers and sisters. This is the law of love. This is Christ in me.