Monday, July 18, 2011

Stonger Christians/Weaker Christians

We finished up Chapter 14 in Romans yesterday, and there were a lot of raised eyebrows about the idea of there being Christians who are "strong" and those who are "weak." The particular issue in that chapter is the observance of the food laws that distinguish the Jewish Christians from the Gentile in that church. Paul sees that issue as sort of cultural/ceremonial rather than something more essential. He firmly holds that the Jewish Christians should be treated with deference, even though their observances may evidence an incomplete grasp of grace.

Paul's analysis of the problem in the Roman church begs to be applied to issues that are troubling Christians today. I therefore expected that we would spend a good bit of time discussing what sort of differences were cultural - and thus should be treated with a sort of graceful deference - and what differences dealt with morality and outright evil and should be the subject of discipline, kindly applied.

But we didn't stay long with that discussion. What the class wanted to talk about was the idea that some Christians would be "strong" and others "weak;" and that the "strong" Christian is called to make, understand and then deal with that distinction in a way that advances the mission of the church. Several people in the class didn't seem to like the idea of one Christian judging another and then believing himself or herself "stronger." To many people "stronger" meant superior. And they saw that making such distinctions as contrary to what Jesus said about judging in Matthew 7. Moving quickly to that discussion surprised (and instructed) me. But that's why I enjoy the class so much.

Why is it that people in the class resist the idea that there are stronger and weaker Christians?

By the way, Chapter 15 starts off with this verse:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. (NIV)

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