The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 15:1, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” This principle of selflessness is one that we must remind ourselves constantly, because selfishness is at the core of every sin and is at the root of every problem we face (cf. Matthew 16:24). In fact, the Bible repeatedly admonishes us to develop this form of selflessness. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42). To the Galatians, Paul taught that Christians ought to be willing to bear the burdens of others (Galatians 6:2-3). To the Ephesians, Paul wrote, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). To the Philippians, he declared, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own tings, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Thus, in these passages and so many others, God teaches us to take self out of our lives!
Nevertheless, this is not easy to do. This is why we see the importance of the godly quality of “longsuffering.” One may be right and not be longsuffering. In fact, older, more mature Christians ought to understand that longsuffering is essential in dealing with weaker, younger members lest through our intolerance and impatience we drive them away. In fact, the Pharisees tried to convey themselves as being proud (filled with pride) of the fact that they were perfect in keeping the Law of Moses (although Jesus exposed their hypocrisy) to the point of it driving a wedge into their very souls due to their extreme selfishness (self-righteousness). Let me conclude this thought with a personal illustration and a Biblical illustration.
When I was a teenager in high school, I prided myself on being fairly intelligent and making good grades. I even competed in Scholar’s Bowl (trivia competition), watched “Jeopardy” with a passion and loved playing Trivial Pursuit. My boss was somewhat of a nerd and knew of my academic accomplishments, so I challenged him to a “friendly” game of “Jeopardy” on the computer one day after work. We built this competition up within the office, scheduling it days (or even weeks) ahead of time so that everyone else in the office could stay and watch as our make-shift audience. We played the game, and my boss beat me. I admitted to myself that I could have done better and did not play as aggressive as I could. Yet, when my boss rubbed it in that he beat me, it was as if he was rubbing salt in an open wound—I could not stand it. I began to spread the word that I let him beat me, and that I wanted a rematch. He gave me a rematch, and I won convincingly. In essence, I burst his bubble, while I got to gloat over the victory. In my youth, I did not see that I came across in a very ugly manner. One of my coworkers, who was an older, wiser Christian, pulled me aside and simply asked me, “What good did you accomplish with what you did?” I will never forget that powerful lesson he taught me—my ego fueled my drive, and the only thing that prompted my actions was selfishness. Did I have to “prove” myself to my boss and my coworkers? Why should I not have remained silent, even if I did know in my heart that I could have won?
To the church in Corinth, Paul spoke of many problems with which they were dealing in his first letter to them. Among them was the issue of eating meats offered to idols. As a mature Christian and apostle, Paul recognized that concerning the issue, “we all have knowledge” (1 Corinthians 8:1). He taught them that many knew that “an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Yet, some were having a guilty conscience about such (1 Corinthians 8:7). Therefore, he encourages those who knew better, “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Why would Paul react this way? He understood this principle—“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Even though he knew he was right in eating meats offered to idols (nothing sinful about such), he would demonstrate a selfless attitude because of his love for his brethren. May God bless us all as we strive to develop this type of mature disposition—the church and the world will be a better place!