I’ve chosen to attach this half of chapter 15, to the arguments and reasoning of the preceding week, and to leave the rest of c.15 connected to c.16, next week’s concluding words.
Paul’s not done with the ethics of living with Christians of varying observances and rules. Each moral, but each different. Let’s start with ‘the weak’ – and not reduce it to condescension.
Apply liberation theology to this text: God’s preferential option for the poor, When in doubt, silence the privileged, and privilege the voice of the marginalized. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed….
Scholars love Paul’s brief reference to scriptures – the documentary authority of a written text excites them – I find these lines all about suffering and emotional support. The language of endurance and comfort is contextual – I fear that we, ‘rich Christians in an age of hunger’, misconstrue our creature comforts as legitimized here – what are we enduring? Mortality? More.
I find the challenge in seeking a united voice – it’s hard to agree with one person – or even oneself – let along a community of faith, within denomination or world church!
That text is one I claim, despite my failure, as a suitable standard.
No wonder this section ends with a prayer – asking a blessing upon us – God knows we need it!
1 But we who are strong have an obligation to bear the infirmities of the powerless and not to please ourselves.
2 Let each of us please the neighbour for good, for edification.
3 For also Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me” (Ps 69:9).
4 Now whatever was written beforehand was written for our instruction, in order that through endurance and through the comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.
5 May the God of endurance and comfort grant you to agree among yourselves according to [the will of] Christ Jesus,
6 so that united with one voice ye may glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Therefore, accept one another, since also Christ has accepted you, to the glory of God.
8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant from the circumcised for the sake of God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises to the fathers
9 and [consequently] the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “For this reason I will praise thee among the Gentiles and sing praise to thy name.” (Ps18:49)
10 And further it says: “Rejoice, ye Gentiles, together with his people” (Deut 32:43)
11 And further: “Praise YHWH, all ye Gentiles, and let all the peoples give him praise” (Ps 117:1)
12 And further Isaiah says: “There shall be the shoot of Jesse and the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope” (Isa 11:10).
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, so that ye may abound in hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.
1 Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status.
2 Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, "How can I help?"
3 That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. "I took on the troubles of the troubled," is the way Scripture puts it.
4 Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.
5 May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all.
6 Then we'll be a choir – not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
7 So reach out and welcome one another to God's glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!
8 Jesus, staying true to God's purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them.
9 As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance: Then I'll join outsiders in a hymn-sing; I'll sing to your name!
10 And this one: Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
11 And again: People of all nations, celebrate God! All colors and races, give hearty praise!
12 And Isaiah's word: There's the root of our ancestor Jesse, breaking through the earth and growing tree tall, Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
13 Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!