On Being Strong

1Receive into your circle of fellowship one who is weak in faith. And don’t do it to dissect his viewpoint. 2For one person believes he can eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. — Romans 14:1-2

(This is Henry, writing for Jody. We had grandchildren last week and took an unintended vacation from devotionals. We’re back!)

Last November I used this text in a devotional, and titled it being weak. I started with this:

I have had a lot of fun with this text. You see, I’m a vegetarian, out of preference, not out of religious conviction, yet I love to read verse 2, and see people react. It’s always good for a laugh.

Part of the laugh is because they know I’m a vegetarian, but the other part of it is because I’m identifying myself, even in jest, as weak in faith, or perhaps just weak. Somehow we have the feeling that this is not the way to do it. I’m supposed to be doing the receiving into my circle, and some other, unidentified brother or sister is the weak one. Calling oneself weak sounds like a sort of self-deprecating humor.

And then I asked this question:

Why is it that we always identify ourselves with the strong ones?

But today I want you to identify with the strong in the faith. Why is that? First, it’s good for us to recognize our own growth in discipleship. Second, it is those who see themselves as strong in the faith who generally feel called to help those who are weak—to disciple them.

In one church there was a major controversy that included questions about who was actually saved and who was close to God. There was a group of people who had been in church for a long time, and had regarded themselves as Christian leaders. As others criticized them for aspects of their beliefs and actions, they reacted as people who were weak. They questioned their own faith, their own relationship with Jesus, and their standing as leaders.

Can you guess what followed? One would hope that they chose to reform where necessary, reaffirm the truth where they knew it to be the truth, and generally behave as leaders. Leaders need to recognize what is wrong, even in themselves, and be willing to make the hard choices that will let them, and those they lead, move forward.

What actually happened was that they began to resent the people who had made them question. Think about this for a moment. When someone corrects you, and you agree with their correction, you can make changes and go on. No room for resentment! On the other hand, if someone corrects you and you are certain they are wrong, you don’t change and you go on. If someone corrects you, and you feel threatened, but you don’t take action to fix the situation, resentment is the most likely result. You react negatively to the person who made you feel weak and uncertain.

Often as strong Christians—and I think everyone will have some strength—we react to those weaker in the faith in just that way. We criticize, condemn, become cynical, and eventually back out. Then we get to spend the next days, weeks, months, years, and even the rest of our lives resenting what those losers did to us.

But if you’re a leader, if you are strong in the faith, who do you have to blame? Have you taken action to resolve the situation? Is your position clear? Did you present it politely but firmly? Have you taken every step you should to accommodate your weaker brethren? Have you considered what they need to grow?

Caring for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46) applies not just to weak in physical resources. It includes those who are young and weak in the faith.

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