Rom 15:1-3 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.”
The word “ought” is often misused and misunderstood today. We may say we “ought to eat healthier” or we “ought to start an exercise program.” This is said, knowing full well that we really have no intention of doing it. It is simply used as a recognition of something that might benefit us.
Paul tells us that we that are strong (beloved of God, called to be saints – Romans 1:7) ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. The word translated here as strong also means able. The actual meaning of the word ought as used here means to owe or be under obligation. We who are able have an obligation before God to bear (endure, carry) the infirmities (doubt, conviction of conscience) of the weak.
We owe it to brethren weaker in the faith to show charity to them in their doubt. If there is something that I am persuaded is perfectly fine for me to do (i.e., eat meat offered to idols) I have a debt to my brother who is weaker in faith to abstain from doing so. Because a thing is pleasing to me does not give me liberty to offend my brother. If we are strong enough in our faith to realize that partaking will not do us harm or offend God, then we should also be able to realize that we are strong enough to walk away from that and not offend our brother (which does offend God).
Being strong in faith requires of us to do an about face from our carnal nature. Our human desire is to please ourselves first above all things else. To happily seek to please (be agreeable to) our neighbor and build him up comes from the mind of Christ through the faith of Christ. It is God-honoring and makes for peace (Rom 14:19).
Truly, our Lord Jesus Christ is our example in all things. Nothing He did in this world was about pleasing Himself. He plainly declared that He did not come to do His own will. Instead, He came to do the will of the Father which sent Him.
Furthermore, He bore with love and patience all our sins. He still bears with us patiently today, as His weaker brothers and sisters, when we stumble in our walk. He is truly able by faith to cause the world to tremble. Yet, He calls us to Himself gently and speaks peace to all our doubts and fears.
Psalms 69:9 recorded the words that Paul quotes here concerning reproach. This psalm begins with Jesus (by prophesy) declaring that His (Godly) jealousy for His Father’s house had consumed Him. He was moved by the depths of His love for His Father’s house to bear the reproaches (contempt) that were shown for the things of God. He took the reviling yet did not revile.
The contempt of those that reviled the things of God fell squarely on Jesus’ shoulders. How humbling it should be to us to realize what we are being told here. When we think of something falling on someone, we usually see it as an accidental or undesired happening. Consider that the word translated as fell meant to embrace or seize.
Jesus’ action in not pleasing Himself was no accident. He seized the reproach as His own and carried it. Our kindness to our brothers and sisters of weaker faith is not to be done as though something undesirable has happened to us. We who are able should seize the obligation to bear the infirmities of the weak, even as Christ does for us.
May we count it all joy to be able to please and edify our neighbors, as the word of God instructs us to do!