Romans 15:1-7 ESV
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Here again, as in the previous chapter, Paul talks about the strong Christian and the weak Christian. So what is a strong Christian? What was it that made Paul a strong Christian? When looking at our own lives do we see ourselves as weak Christians or strong Christians? I have a suggestion at least in my own life. I believe the first thing I needed to do in order to become a strong Christian is to know what, as a Christian, my true identity was and learn what that means. I think that is what made Paul a strong Christian. Earlier in his life he had great zeal for God but didn't understand his true identity in Christ. He felt it was up to him to get people to see things his way and if they didn't go along with him, he would kill them using the law to justify his actions. It was only after Jesus came to Paul and revealed himself, showing Paul's true identity as being in Christ, the very one he was persecuting, that he became a strong Christian.
How do we come to understand what our true identity is? Recently I read a book called, "Stop Trying" by Cary Schmidt. In the book Cary told a story about taking his son on a ski trip. His son crashed on his first run down the hill and hit his head, causing him to lose all memory of who he was, where he was, and what he had been doing. On the way to the hospital he became very anxious about not remembering anything and was getting very agitated. Cary stopped the car and told his son to look him in the eye, then asked him, do you know who I am? Yes, his son said, you are my dad. Okay, just put your trust in me, I know who you are, we are going home, I'll drive, stop trying, just rest, I'm with you. At that his son began to calm down and rest knowing he would be okay. He just needed to trust his father.
This is how it is with our heavenly father, especially in the beginning. We put our trust in Him and by reading His word He shows us our true identity. I remember singing the song, I'm a Child of the King, and saying I'm a Child of God but not really understanding or comprehending what that meant. Often we think our identity is dependent upon being accepted by others or we try to create our own identity by trying to be who we think we are or want to be. The best way to find our identity is to put our trust in Jesus and as we read His Word He shows us our identity. It's then that we actually become strong Christians and rather than being defensive about what we believe or try convincing others our opinions are correct, we learn to stick to what the scriptures say and allow the Holy Spirit to show the weak Christian the real truth.
A practical way to find your true identity is to search scripture to see who you are as a child of God. Here are a few verses to maybe start with. I am a child of God John 1:12-13, I am a son of God; God is spiritually my father Romans 8:14-17, I am a new creation 2 Cor. 5:17. As you search Scripture make a list but have lots of paper since the list will become huge. After you get a list going, start the day out by going over the list and reminding yourself who you truly are in Christ.
by Ken Edgerly