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 neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. 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, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, the strong should help the weak, of course they should! It’s common sense isn’t it? This is one of those principles which seems so right – until we try to figure out how it might work in practice.
In the business world, weak might be a bottom line with very small numbers, or very large, but negative, numbers. Strong might be fingers in big well-known pies. In the sports world, strong might be having rich owners, expensive players at the top of their game, huge publicity budgets. Weak might be the local cricket team living from hand to mouth, with players giving up their free time not only to play, but to maintain the cricket field and pavilion.
So what about the church world? Strong could be a large congregation on Sunday mornings, it could be a large reserve fund to provide for those “rainy days” and weak could be the opposite of those measures.
However, a church can have either, or both, of those features but still be weak if its focus is on protecting the status quo and pulling up the drawbridge of self-preservation.
And a church can be strong with a small congregation, and with no reserve funds available, if that church has a vision which has been prayerfully discerned and which gives it the confidence to step out in faith and join in God’s adventure even if the risks look insurmountable.
Father, help us to see our strengths as you see them and help us to use those strengths to help others, be they individuals or fellowships, who have not yet found or accepted your strength and encouragement. Help us also to see our weaknesses as you see them, and be willing and able to accept help from others to overcome our weaknesses and to give you the glory. Amen.
The Rev’d Sheila Coop, Minister at Macedonia URC, Failsworth and Oldham Town Centre Chaplaincy