The church today is divided over many things. Race and politics, in particular, have become a flashpoint in recent days. But there are also many other, less volatile matters over which we disagree. We may have different preferences in the style of the church building, length of service, or musical instruments. Knowing how prone we are to division, it is no accident that the Bible says we need to make an effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3).
Today’s passage teaches the hard lesson that the burden for maintaining this peace is not equally shared: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves” (v. 1). In this context, the weak are those whose conscience does not allow them the same freedom as the strong.
Paul’s command may seem hard to accept because it feels like an infringement on our individual rights. And...it is (v. 2)! But when God expects this of us, He is treating us no differently than He did His own Son who humbled Himself for us.
Paul did not say these things lightly. He understood the challenge and prayed that God would enable the believers in Rome to have “the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had” (v. 5). This attitude was: “Christ did not please himself” (v. 3). Paul focused on the root of their division by showing that Jesus came as a servant to both Jews and Gentiles (vv. 7–12).
>> Sometimes we make allowances for our differences but still view others with contempt. We tolerate others without truly accepting them. Such treatment is not true acceptance. Remember that Christ has not treated us this way. How should you treat those people with whom you differ? Accept one another as Christ has accepted you.
Forgive us for our contempt of others and teach us to respect all members of the body of Christ, even those whom we don’t understand. Draw us ever closer to you, Lord.