Romansby David Cook
Paul could easily have concluded his remarks at the end of chapter 14, but he keeps on like a dog with a bone. The unity of the church is an important issue.
Today, Christian unity is too expendable. Denominations divide us too easily and even at the local church level, we are far too portable. When there is a difference or offence, we tend to just move to another church.
Christian unity is God-given. It is precious, and we need to work hard to maintain it.
Paul's word in verses 1 to 6 is to the strong, the non-Jews. Such people are to take the initiative and bear with those with a tender conscience. In the exercise of freedom they are to build up their neighbour. That's what Jesus did. He did not please himself but bore the burdens of others. The Old Testament, too, is full of examples of perseverance, endurance, and God's faithfulness.
Such consideration in the way we live does not come naturally. We need God's help, and that's why Paul wishes God's blessing on them in verses 5 to 6.
In verses 7 to 13, he says that both the strong and the weak are to take the initiative and accept one another.
Jesus again is the model of such acceptance. God doesn't discriminate between the weak (Jews) and the strong (Gentiles). God's church is not exclusive. God's acceptance of both is the basis of our acceptance of one another.
Again, such acceptance does not come easily to us, so Paul wishes them God's blessing in verse 13. In this verse there is a strong emphasis on hope. God is the God of hope. And hope causes an overflow of joy and peace. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul says that the fruit of hope is endurance.
Maintaining unity can be hard work and we need to keep our eye on the prize. That's what hope does. The prize is heaven, being in the presence of Jesus together with our fellow believers in perfect union.
We need to warmly accept and bear with one another as we live in the light of such hope.
How can the example of Jesus encourage you to live in unity with believers with whom you may disagree?
How might you show that you value Christian unity only lightly?
How are you driven by Christian hope today?