Almost ready for some shut-eye, after a week of preparation….
So before I close the laptop, turn out the lamp & hit the pillow, just a few brief thoughts on why God has designed the church with the strong & the weak. Why not, for example, have a church where we all agree about all the details of the finer points of doctrine? Or be in harmonious accord on how to apply each principle to the nitty-gritty of life? If we had designed the church, we would, no doubt, have ironed-out all the wrinkles, air-brushed all the stains, filled-in all the cracks with rapid-dry cement! So why is the church left with these debates, disputes & dissent? That was the question I asked as I tried to grapple with Romans 14 & ‘the Weak & the Strong’!
Longing For Glory
Well would it be so great if, in our present earthly state, we had no longing for heaven where the unblemished bride will be dressed in perfect white with all the wrinkles ironed out? Surely, our present frustration, with occasional joy in agreement, creates a spiritual hunger for the things that are above!
Growth in Grace
Or would we grow in grace, mature as disciples, progress in our faith, learn discernment, grapple with the Scriptures if all the truth was plain, and we all sang off the same ‘hymnsheet’? Perhaps, of course, there might be fewer toes trodden on & fewer cases of peptic ulceration. Yet would you swap health for humility, holiness & kindness & be the ultimate winner? God knows that it is better that, as iron sharpens iron, we rub shoulders with our brothers, and prayerfully persevere in our relationships.
God’s Gospel Goal
So, my provisional, tentative, conclusion, appears to be something like this: oh boy, do we need both the weak and strong, like a hammer of grace, to knock us into shape, and work out the practical implications of the Gospel in our lives. It is in having to reconcile our difficulties, agree to disagree, refuse to insist on our own way, attempt to create space for brothers to breathe, determinedly insist upon others right to conscientiously object, that we learn the true value of brothers & sisters for whom the Father gave His Son, and for whom Jesus shed His blood; this is one of the chief ways that Christians who differ may grow to understand that Jesus is their Lord not us, that our opinion doesn’t count so much if it means causing another to trip; that for the Gospel to be worked out in our lives, we must forego the legitimate use of Gospel liberties for higher ends of love, to serve one another, to cherish those for whom Christ died. What then is the goal for disciples in chapter 14 of the Gospel of Romans? To open my heart to the treasures of God’s grace, to have my heart, mind, will steeped & bathed in the Triune Love of God – and all this grace to the praise of His glory.
Instead of getting fractious, restless & annoyed, will you remember to turn disagreement on secondary issues with brothers into occasions for prayer? Ask that the Lord would change disputes into vehicles of growth in grace & love! If you are strong, and your understanding is enlightened, will you show true strength by crucifying your own mores for the sake of the brother who is touchy, difficult, stubborn on non-essential matters? In executing yourself may you seek the Goal of Golgotha, as you start to recognise the worth of the weak!