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by Jacob Ninan

"Now, we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbour for his good to his edification" (Ro.15:1,2).

This does not mean that we are so strong that we do not need anybody's help ourselves, but rather that when we meet those who are weaker, God intends that we help them and not just think of ourselves. The picture here is of someone struggling under the weight of a heavy burden and a strong man coming along and putting his shoulder under the weight and helping the first man to carry it.

For example, a brother or sister may be struggling under the load of anxiety and worry. They may be longing to be free from this bondage. It does not help them if we merely tell them that their anxiety is due to unbelief, and that it is a sin to be anxious. All this may be true; but what they need first of all is some sympathy and understanding. Only then will they be in a fit state to receive the above exhortations. If we don't approach them like that, we can end up being Pharisees, who put heavy burdens on people without lifting any part of it ourselves - by requiring of them a higher standard of behaviour than they can manage right now, and not helping them to carry their burden (Mt.23:4). Truth without mercy was characteristic of the Pharisees.

A weak brother is one who has not yet become strong enough to carry his own burden. In other words, he has not yet learned to overcome sin. It is not that he is not interested in victory, but rather that he has not yet come into that life. It is wrong then to be angry with him for being defeated or because things are going slowly with him spiritually. When we react like that to another's weakness, it only shows that we are weak ourselves.

"Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens and thus fulfil the law of Christ" (Ga.6:1,). When someone comes to us with a problem in relation to another, we can perhaps notice several things wrong with that brother himself. Perhaps he is bitter and can only find things wrong in the other. But if we straightaway proceed to set him right and point out how wrong his attitude is, he may not be able to bear it. He may go away offended. We may have been right in everything that we said, but we were not able to help the brother. We need to recognise that his bitterness is due to some load that he is unable to carry. If he can realise that we love him and are willing to listen to him, without partaking of his spirit of bitterness, then we will be able to help him. We sympathise with him, because he is a brother who has the same weak flesh that we have ourselves. But we hate sin, and need to help him to see sin in the same light we see it ourselves. Then we can help him to overcome his bitterness and to be restored to fellowship with his brother.

Jesus became our High Priest because He could sympathise with our weaknesses. He does not merely discipline us but intercedes for us too. He was ruthless in His rebuke of the hypocrites who had no desire to overcome sin. But He was compassionate and merciful towards even the weakest who came into the light. This is our calling too.

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