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.”
Remember who it is you aim to please, to make happy, and build up. Too many of us are too puffed up with self-righteousness to consider building someone else up with the love of Christ. Yet, not only do we seek to please God by using our faith and the therefore the gifts He gave us, we are also supposed to please our neighbor! We can all repeat the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” but do we appreciate the wholeness of that great command? That command is written in Leviticus 19:18 and reads,
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Part of loving our neighbor is building him up, not puffing him up with false knowledge or even our knowledge, but edifying him, strengthening him to be more Christ-like, stronger in the Lord, and able to withstand the attacks of the enemy. What is good for my neighbor is good for me and good for all the brethren. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 and 31-33 read,
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:23-33).
Are you self-seeking? No one can hear you answer, examine your heart and answer to yourself. Why do you do all the service you do? Does it make you feel good and look good? Are you hoping to catch the eye of the pastor, get a nod from your mentor, and maybe have all your Facebook friends comment on what a wonderful person you are? It is part of who we are in the flesh to gratify the flesh, but we are in the Spirit and while we are seeking to please ourselves, maybe we should stop and consider the people around us. Does all of Facebook or Twitter or church need to know that you served meals to the homeless instead of ate Thanksgiving dinner? Does everyone need to know you gave money to a charity or ran a race, or whatever? If you can do all those things regardless if any person on earth ever knows you are doing them, then you are likely seeking to please God and not yourself. The Spirit knows what you’re doing and the motivation for doing it. (Matthew 6:1-6) He can glorify God through what you do in secret. He does not require your assistance! Telling the world about how good you are and the good you do, is not for God’s glorification but your own, it is not for your brother’s edification but your own.
When you judge your brother for his weaker faith, you are dismissing what God is doing and has done for Him. Do you know that not only did Christ take all your sins and give you His righteousness, He took on all the derision, the judgement for you as well? When verse 3 says, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me” it means that he took the judgement, the disdain, the disrespect, and the condemnation onto himself. Is there room in loving your neighbor to give him back what Jesus took away? Is there room in love to hurt, shame, or disparage? How does any of that build up? The brother or sister you scoff at was already broken before he or she came to Christ, He binds up the broken hearted (Isaiah 61:1), should we too be binding them up? It is love for the house of God, the temple, the church, both the individual and the whole which spurned Jesus to lay down His life and take on our sin, shame, and disdain. Psalm 69:9 is the verse Paul is quoting in Romans 15:3, it reads,
For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
David wasn’t talking about a building, He was talking about people. The building had not yet been built. He was prophesying about Christ as he lamented the hate focused on him while Saul chased him down and sought to kill him and he looked toward the day when he would finally take the throne as Israel’s rightful king. David loved Israel, God’s people. Jesus loves us, God’s people. Do we love God’s people so much that we can sacrifice our pride and self-righteousness for them?
It is the glory of God we should be seeking. In pleasing our neighbor, we glorify God because we love them as He has loved us. We put them, their needs, and their happiness before our own as Jesus did for us when He laid down His life for us when we in no way deserved that sacrifice. Can’t we lay down our pride and self-satisfaction to please someone else? Doing that is us choosing to walk in the Spirit, being the image of Christ, and making known what eternal life will be like. We will be united with Christ and one another! His will is our unity! Ephesians 4:1-7 reads,
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
What is the measure of Christ’s gift? What is the measure of grace and faith and Spirit given to each of us? Is grace limited? When humans gift gifts we give based on our limits. Humanity nor flesh limit Jesus, is God! He gives the Spirit who is also God without measure (John 3:34). He gives to us fully, so that we may grow to the fullness, the completeness of who Jesus is. He brings us to that completeness through unity. Ephesians 4:11-16 reads,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Unity is important to God. Unity is not achieved by each of us seeking her own glory, or the glory of this pastor or that teacher but the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and 17 reads,
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
The Gospel is not well written blogs, passionately spoken sermons, or beautifully articulated poetry. The Gospel does not require our talent for words, our gifts, knowledge, or power. Jesus is the Christ, our Lord who died and resurrected to give us eternal life. FULL STOP! Nothing less and no twinkly lights or interesting fonts required. Jesus died and lived for you and for that dude in church who hasn’t memorized any Bible verses, the chick who dresses like she is going to gym or the club, and the lady who thinks prayer requests means sharing her life’s problems and fixing yours. Yep, Christ is overjoyed to have them in His family. He opened His arms to them, the same as He did for you, Cherished.
Let’s continue in Romans 15, verses 4-7 read,
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Our unity is important to the Lord, not unity in Pastor Bob, or unity in Donna, or unity in [insert your own name]. It is unity in Christ, unity in the Spirt, unity in the Father. We have one Gospel, one faith and when we speak that one truth together we glorify God. Forget the minutia! Did Jesus say, “I would welcome you, but you’re a sinner”? Did He say, “I’ll welcome you into my family after you quit smoking”? No! He forgave you while you were a sinner, weak, and ungodly.” Welcome one another the same way! Forget the unimportant arguments and instead love one another, do whatever we must to live in peace with one another, speak the Gospel, live the Gospel and glorify the LORD. God gave to you with the measure of His riches and wealth. He gave it all to you not merely a portion so you could become sorta kinda like Him, but so you could attain the fullness of Christ. He loved you to the point of laying down His life for you. He adores you, cherishes you, and build you up to His fullness. Let’s be who we can be so all of us can be who God made us to be.