Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness 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. Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 15: 1-7 (2nd Epistle)
For many years, I have participated in our Metropolis’ summer camping program. At summer camp, we have a rule that cabins must go everywhere as a group. That means if it is time to go to breakfast and one person in the cabin can’t find their shoes, the rest of the cabin doesn’t just take off and leave that person behind. They help the camper find the shoes and then they go as a group.
This can work in a controlled environment like a summer camp. In the rest of the world, we mostly ascribe to the maxim “survival of the fittest” and those who are weak, or who can’t find their shoes, get left behind.
Many people, maybe even most people, who are reading this message hopefully think we are strong people. Hopefully, we all have a good bit of self-confidence and aren’t riddled with anxiety and doubt. However, it is likely that some of us are. And for those who aren’t, we all know people who are. This Epistle passage from Romans reminds us that we are to bear with the “failings of the week, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1) Going back to the summer camp example, every cabin wants to be first in line to eat, and no one wants to be late because a fellow camper couldn’t find his shoes. While the world lauds those who are in front of the line, God tells us it’s better to be in the back of the line having helped our neighbor than in front of the line because we left our neighbor behind.
No one is good at everything. That is fact. Put any two people doing a task and one of the two will be better. For instance, when a couple has their first baby, one of them will undoubtedly be better at changing diapers than the other. Perhaps one person has brought a lot of diaper changing experience into parenthood or perhaps it just comes easier to one person. In a marriage, one of the two is bound to be better with cooking or with finances or with planning or with any number of things. We will all have moments in life when we are the stronger of two people and we will all have moments when we are the weaker of the two. Learning to bear with the failings of the weak is a good thing, if for no other reason than we hope that people will be patient with us when we are the weak one at something.
Failings come in all forms, including spiritual failings. We all sin to some degree. Every sin is a failure to love God, from the smallest sin to the most egregious. In Luke 6:37, Jesus says “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Because we want Christ not to judge us or condemn us, but rather to forgive us, we ought to do the same with each other.
Part of what afflicts our souls is the disease of judgment on other people, usually manifested in impatience. As we seek healing of our souls and bodies, a great elixir is the discipline to be patient and not judge, to stop to help our neighbor instead of leaving him behind, and to patiently wait for someone to catch up rather than always expecting them to run at our pace.
Romans 15:5 reminds us that God is a God of steadfastness and encouragement who desires that we live in harmony with one another. People are more motivated by encouragement than by condemnation. We do better when people celebrate our successes rather than focus on our failures. Lots of healing can be injected into the world if we keep these things in mind.
Because Christ welcomes us with steadfastness (patience with our shortcomings) and encouragement (celebrating what we do well), this is how we should welcome one another. In doing so, God is glorified. (Romans 15:7)
Graciously look down from on High, O Mother and Creator of all, and through your intercessions, dispel the sufferers’ bitter pangs. (3rd Ode)
Be patient with one another. Focus on encouragement and not judgment.