Lay it Down

  1. Message: In Romans 15 Paul was speaking to those who considered themselves strong in the faith and he urged them to “bear the weaknesses of those without strength.” To give up some of their freedoms for the sake of those who might be offended by them. He used Jesus as an example when he took the insults thrown at him by people who didn’t understand what he came to do. He didn’t fight back and he didn’t put them in their place even though he was certainly strong enough to do so. In verse 7 Paul encouraged the Jews and the Gentiles to accept each other. Being a born Jew himself he led this by example by affirming the legitimacy of the Gentiles and he even quoted several prophecies from Isaiah that confirm the Gentiles in their place with the Messiah.
  2. Command: Lay aside my right to be right and don’t fight battles that I already know I have an advantage in just for the sake of winning.
  3. Promise: We will win people in our graciousness, not in our battles.
  4. Warning: Our pride wants to get the best of us in these moments but if we follow it we will look silly even if we are right. Even worse, we will alienate people who probably need what we have.
  5. Application: What I really saw in this was a call to pull ourselves out of ourselves. In America we are obsessed with our rights. Our rights are important, and other people fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice for those rights, but I think we dishonor that sacrifice when we elevate or abuse our rights and use them to crush someone else. Everyone values our freedom of speech, but it saddens me when someone uses that freedom to verbally tear someone else down. We can disagree with people and discuss the facts about laws and situations, but when we make it personal and attack the person we are in disagreement with we are wrong and we are abusing our freedom. The Jews and the Gentiles were struggling with each other because of beliefs. The Jews were struggling with embracing the new covenant. They were raised with the law since birth and were proud of their generational heritage as God’s chosen people. Now the Gentiles were invited in and they were enjoying their salvation with freedoms that the Jews didn’t understand. Because of this they struggled to accept each other or understand where each was coming from. Paul was appealing to them both asking them to lay aside whatever each felt was their advantage on each other in order to accept each other. I once heard a woman at a bible study start to debate about rapture and tribulation. This was a room packed with women and she went off-topic asking questions and quoting scripture to fight her cause until the woman leading the bible study kindly and gently interrupted her. This woman was in her 80s and had entire books of the bible memorized! She understood the bible like nobody I have ever known personally and she surely could have put her to shame without even trying. She probably could have pulled truth from both sides and dismissed the misconceptions. Instead she kindly but firmly told her that these arguments are interesting but they don’t change salvation. She was focused and she was kind and she was not going to let a theological dispute derail anyone in the room from the message of salvation. I believe there is a time and a place for debates and apologetics. There are some very humble and very smart apologists that I admire for their ability to debate with people and defend truth while preserving the dignity of those who are in disagreement with them.  I have learned so much from both approaches, but most importantly, the importance of yielding to other people and treating them with dignity and not condescending in my perception of their weakness. I emphasize the word “perception” because I have learned and seen so many times where once person believed they were speaking from a place of authority or higher understanding but in reality, they were speaking to a humble person who was graciously listening to a person in weakness with a whole lot to learn.  I’m a talker and I tend to ramble on so my challenge and my goal is to be like both of these examples. I read the word daily and study with diligence, but I can never assume I have a deeper understanding than anyone that I might encounter. Not only do I need to appeal to people in what I might perceive as weakness, but if I shut up and listen, I just might learn something valuable from even the most unlikely source!

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