The Weak, the Strong, and the Way of Christ

The Strong’s Spiritual Duties in the Church

Bear with the weak and their struggles

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me’” (Romans 15:1–3 ESV).

Bear with here doesn’t mean “put up with it.” Bear means “to carry it.” Help them carry the burdens of their weaker conscience. Share the weight of a weak conscience with them. A weak conscience has many burdens. This has been a struggle in my life in some areas where I look back and I think I’ve been overly conscientious about certain things. I’ve based too much of my sense of well-being on my spiritual performance. The result is a lot of guilt. A lot of internal condemnation. If you come from my kind of background where the lifestyle standards had a lot of rules with them, you know how internally condemning that can be.

I remember talking with a friend who went to a well-known, very conservative Christian college. They had strict rules about everything. He told me the worst part of that college experience was that he got comfortable with violating his conscience. An observation I would make is that excessively strict Christian contexts create people who either are incredibly self-righteous about their outward conformity or inwardly distraught by their hypocrisy. They often cope by numbing themselves to the guilty conscience. Since this can’t be sustained, people are shocked when said person sins excessively and publicly. How did they come to this? Their conscience was numbed, and when you numb your conscience, you can sin spectacularly.

All that to say, there are a lot of burdens that go along with the weaker faith Christian. The last thing they need is the strong in faith laying on more levels of guilt. They are already drowning in guilt.

So rather than adding to their burdens, we should help carry them. That’s the sense here.

We all know how carrying groceries can be tedious. The bag breaks and the pickles are all over the floor. Carry it wrong and your bread is smashed, and the eggs are cracked. How helpful when someone says, can I help you carry that? How can the strong help carry the failings of the weak?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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