“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.” (Romans 15:1–2, KJV 1900)
I just watched a documentary about a combat medic named Desmond Doss who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in WW2. Desmond, was assigned to an infantry company during an assault on a 400-foot-high escarpment in Okinawa. The unit took heavy casualties leaving 75 men on the top. All the others retreated with the exception of Desmond who refused to leave. Instead, risking his own life he remained on top, treating the wounded. He personally carried each of the wounded to the edge of the escarpment and lowered them with a rope to safety. Desmond, not a very muscular man demonstrated great strength in carrying the weak.
I believe that the actions of Desmond in carrying those who were wounded when they could not make it by themselves is a perfect illustration for the verse Paul wrote to the Romans. “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1, KJV 1900)
When one asked Desmond, why he put himself at such great risk to save those men, he stated only that it was his duty to save lives. It was his obligation. We as Christians have an obligation as well. We are obligated to “bear the infirmities of the weak.” Here, the infirmities do not refer to physical ones though that too is a responsibility that we carry. Here, Paul is referring to the previous writing regarding the one who is weak in the faith and feels compelled to abstain from participating in areas in which the strong have liberty (Rom 14:1, ff.).
So, there are several things that we must remember from this verse. First, we have an obligation to our brother whom we may consider as weak. Second, the obligation is to bear with his weaknesses as opposed to crushing him or criticizing him for them. Third, to fulfill this obligation we must give up on our own wants and desires that focus on pleasing ourselves.
In the next verse we have two more principles in fulfilling this obligation. “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.” (Romans 15:2, KJV 1900) Here the fourth thing to remember is that we are to work to please our brother and not ourselves. Last, we are to do this for his edification, that is to build him up rather than tearing him down.
Desmond Doss, a combat medic, demonstrated great strength in giving up on his own safety for the sake of others who were weak. It took personal effort. Likewise, we who are strong need to often give up on what may please ourselves for the sake of others so that they may be built up in their Christian experience. Remember, it is not about us. It is about building up others in the faith.
Tomorrow, I will continue on this thought with the supreme example given us in Christ.