Pleasing others, for their good
Think of a major accomplishment in your life. To get there, you had to work hard. Perhaps you worked for a long time, even years. Significant progress was made, and you know – more than anyone else – how much effort and time and worry and late nights went into finally “arriving.”
Maybe your mountain is a promotion or tenure. Maybe it’s a high school or college degree. Maybe it’s the applause of your peers, the community, or even your family. We strive and work toward many noble goals in this life – financial freedom, career advancement, raising a family, business success, doing adult-things and doing them well.
Whenever we get to the point where we feel like “we’ve arrived”, there’s a seemingly innocent urge that sneaks into our minds. While we relish the moment and reflect on the work that got us there, there is also a subtle tug to coast (just a little) and take it easy.
Now, don’t misunderstand me…rest is good. Rest is Biblical. God rested after six days of creation. However, when rest is complete, we will have to make a choice – will we allow our rest to become self-indulgent, or will we face the difficult question of what to do next?
As Paul was finishing up his letter to the believers in Rome, he touched on several practical issues. He approached these issues from two sides – from those believers who had already arrived at maturity and those who had not yet matured. We find that kind of mixed company in the church today also. Here, Paul talks about the responsibility of those who have developed a strong relationship with God:
Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up. For even the Messiah did not please Himself.
When we have a mature, developed relationship with God, it is not time to be self-centered. God doesn’t want us to sit around being full of ourselves. Rather, He wants us to leverage our development in a way that pleases our neighbor.
And this kind of pleasing isn’t about just making them feel happy, either. We are to purposely act for their good, encouraging them and building them up so they can experience and live out the same kind of relationship we have with the Father.
Honestly, even for someone who has walked with God for a long time – developing others is hard. Building up a fellow believer can be really messy sometimes, it’s not a give-advice-once-and-be-done kind of thing. In case we have any question as to what that looks like, Paul says that the model for the mature believer to follow is Christ’s example. Jesus found motivation to continue on, complete His mission, and please His Father by looking ahead to the mission’s end result.
A few verses later, Paul points his audience toward the end result of building up their fellow believers:
Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a unified mind and voice.
That’s the goal here, humanity’s created purpose – to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and for us to do so with a unified mind and voice. We who are strong and mature are to bear with those who haven’t made it yet. Not just to tolerate them, either. After we build them up to maturity, together we can all give God the glory He deserves.