Do you please your neighbor?
by Michael E. Brooks
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Romans 15:1-2 NKJV).
“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
I have trekked the Himalayan mountains of Nepal to visit churches in remote areas several times over the years.
On one such journey I was climbing up a landslide shortcut to avoid going much further along the curves and twists of the path. We were at more than 10,000 feet of elevation, and climbing at a steep angle, wearing backpacks full of clothing and gear.
Needless to say, for this flatlander from Alabama, it was slow going.
While I was stopped to rest partway up, one of the Nepali mountain people (of the Tamang tribe indigenous to that region) came bounding down the hillside, grabbed my pack, and quickly ascended, leaving me to follow unburdened.
The climb was much easier, and we maintained that distribution of load for the remainder of the trip. I got tired much less frequently, and he hardly seemed to notice the difference.
The Bible reminds us that not all are equal in emotional, intellectual, or spiritual resources. Some are strong, well able to resist most temptations. Others have greater Bible knowledge and the ability to discern the significance of doctrinal subtleties.
The new Christian who has studied little may not understand why one behavior is acceptable, but another slightly different action may not be permissible.
Paul says in Romans 15:1-2 that the older brother or sister who knows the difference might need to recognize the vulnerability of the weaker member and avoid actions that may lead him or her into sin.
The broader point is that none of us is able to bear all of our own burdens. We need others to help. Just as I depended upon the mountain-bred Nepali to carry my pack, we must help the weak in their struggles.
Christian fellowship recognizes that we are not to live so as only to please ourselves. We are family. We are interdependent. Each believer must open his heart and his eyes to see the burden which others are carrying. And when we see that burden we are to provide help.
My Nepali friend may have been doubly motivated. He saw my struggles and cared enough to help. But I am wise enough to recognize that I was slowing down the whole party.
By carrying my pack he helped the entire group to go faster, keeping us on schedule and making the trip quicker for everyone. By helping me he helped us all, including himself.
As members of the Lord’s Church, what is good for one member is good for all. And what is good for all is good for me. That is the wisdom and beauty of God’s design. That is true fellowship.