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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, July 27, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 15:1–13

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NRSV)

Strength and weakness are fraught terms in the New Testament epistles. It’s one of the things that most strongly attracted me to the gospel as a young person, this Pauline renegotiation of strength and weakness in the light of Jesus, like in 1 Corinthians where he writes that “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” I love that.

Strength and weakness among church folk get flipped on their heads by the gospel, too. Here in Romans, the “strong” person is the one whose faith is not harmed by the prospect of eating meat that has previously been sacrificed to a pagan deity. Paul says, “Good for you. But the strength of your faith isn’t the highest consideration” (I’m paraphrasing). “If your brother or sister is injured by what you eat [now I’m quoting Romans 14:15], then you are no longer walking in love.”

Which brings us to the admonition in today’s text that “we who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak” (I prefer the Common English Bible’s translation of “be patient” in place of “put up with”β€”it sounds more kind). This is as clear an insight as we’ll get into the logic of the Spirit that governs the church’s life and our relationship with the wider world: strength is not for the strong but for the powerless. Put another way, power is to be exercised for the benefit of those who lack it.

In a world where power begets more power and where the strong lord it over the weak, the church’s witness in this regard is more urgent than ever.

God of steadfastness and encouragement, grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together we may with one voice glorify you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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