“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1). In my humble opinion, this is one most significant weaknesses of the modern church. Let me explain what I mean with an example. I was a youth minister in a church many years ago. On more than one occasion, after some or other incident involving teens, I would hear the “mature” complain that young teens or immature Christians should not do this or that because the latter is a stumbling block to the former.
Instead of remembering that they too were once infant Christians, they complain that the youth are “Causing problems in my faith.” When people, especially teens, decide to obey the gospel and put Christ on in baptism, we expect them to act like fully mature Christians. We don’t understand why they still act like before they became Christians – as if baptism is the final step in the maturing of a believer. When we read 1 Pet. 2:2, we begin to understand the process a little more, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”
When a baby is born, does the mother leave it to fend for itself, find food and feed itself, and learn life’s intricacies? Of course not. The mother understands that the infant is now more than ever in need of her nurturing. Without the milk the baby “craves” because it is their life force, they would soon perish. The same applies to the infant Christian. Why do we study with them, leading them to the waters of baptism, only to desert them from that moment on? This is the time when they will be viciously attacked by the evil one. He knows they are still weak, wavering in their understanding. He knows the foundation is still setting and that the best time to undo anything is before it hardens. He will not pass on the opportunity to damage their spirituality. He will strike quickly and fiercely.
Instead of strengthening them with further study and words of encouragement, we play into the hands of Satan and attack them, confusing them and driving a nail into their spiritual coffin. Even more tragically, when they falter because of our actions, we fail to see our role in it and blame them for giving into their sinful nature. This is precisely what happens to weak Christians as well. They get berated for their sinful actions and made to feel as if they are pathetic rejects in the house of the righteously pious. Other times the mature want sermons and lessons directed to their maturity level, and the heck with the immature. They should just concentrate and study harder. How stupid are they that they cannot understand a 401 lesson while still at a 101 level, to use a university concept?
I think in many cases, there is a reason for that. The “mature” themselves were left in a similar predicament when they were baptized – left to fend for themselves without a nurturing adult believer who could feed them the Word of God and strengthen them in all things positive, including empathy. The writer of Hebrews has a word for them. Heb 5:12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basics principles of the oracles of God.” Nothing is more frustrating than an “mature” Christian who thinks they have all the spiritual wisdom in the world. Because they are so childish, everything has to be about them and their needs, to the misfortune of the weaker brother or sister. They may be more mature than the infant Christian, but not by far less than they think.
In our verse for the day, Paul wants them to know it is not a favor but an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak. If it is a blessing for someone to bring a wandering soul back to the light, how much punishment awaits one who is the reason for the wandering of another soul? Jam. 5:20, “let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. Matt. 18:6, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Don’t cause the weak to wander because you could find yourself at the bottom of the ocean.