Some Questionable Doctrines
These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men. Bernie Parsons
"I Am Weak, So Stop Offending Me!"
by Bernie Parsons
November 11, 2009
Some Christians, condemning certain practices of their Christian brothers and sisters, invoke the "weakness" defense. I have seen this regarding things like eating pork, wearing a certain style of clothing, or participating in special observances, otherwise known as holidays. They say, "You can't do that, because that offends me." They cite:
Romans 14:15 "But if thy brother be
grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with
thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Yes, Paul said not to destroy the weak with a practice that does not matter to God, one way or the other. We must take care to look out for our weak brothers and sisters in Christ. As usual, people who approach the scriptures seeking to justify a preconceived doctrine tend to take the scriptures out of their original context. The "weakness" defense is one such peculiar doctrine. Usually when I have seen it invoked, it was because the person invoking it claimed to be offended by someone else participating in a holiday in one way or another.
Such a person is confessing that they are weak in the Lord, weak spiritually. They are admitting that their understanding is incomplete and immature in the Lord. If they are knowledgeable enough about the scriptures to invoke this "weakness" defense, then they know enough to keep the scriptures in their context and understand them correctly and completely. That is, unless they are merely parroting what someone else has instructed them to say. Put the verses back into their surrounding context, and it changes everything. Note where I have italicized relevant portions:
Romans 14:10 "But why dost
thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we
shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
The italicized parts emphasize what the apostle Paul was teaching in this portion of his letter to the church at Rome. While it is true that he said that we are not to offend and destroy our brother for his lack of understanding, yet he tells all, whether strong or weak, not to judge one another! God will do the judging, not us. Paul goes on to weigh in on the side of the meat eater -- which also reflects upon the person who chooses to hold a day as special, above others -- when he says that "All things indeed are pure." The sin occurs when a person participates in eating meat or holding a day as special, when in his or her heart that person has decided that it is wrong to eat meat or hold the day as special! 22 "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Paul is plainly stating that the sin is internal to the individual in this instance. God does not care if we eat meat or are vegetarians. As an aside, some ignore apostle Paul's contrast between eating meat and herbs -- plants -- arguing that this is referring to eating meat served to idol gods, or not. Although that they are wrong, it doesn't matter, as the point being made is the same, and is not restricted to meat, anyway. They use that erroneous criticism as a distraction from the main point.
God does not care if we feel that every day is just like every other, or whether some of us like to esteem one day above another! Yet, Paul takes the side of the meat eater, because God does not care what we eat! As Jesus told His critics, it all passes out into the waste, anyway! It is the weak person who condemns eating meat or keeping a day as special. His condemnation is due to a lack of understanding.
Paul, in verse 22, admonished the Roman Christians to keep their choice between themselves and God. It is an individual, personal matter, not to be imposed upon others. In verse 10, he said not to judge one another. In verse 19, he told them to follow the things that made peace. Sometimes, that means accommodating a spiritually weak person who lacks in understanding and wisdom until they learn better. Should we never teach the weak that their understanding is incorrect, or should we lovingly work with them to help them overcome this weakness?
If you read this and are one of those people invoking the "I am weak, and you are offending me" defense of your stance on an issue, you need to grow in the Lord, and learn what the scriptures teach! Don't revel and glory in your ignorance and weakness! I have seen church members who had been in the church for forty or fifty years, who still use the "I am weak, you are offending me" defense! At what point in their lives as Christians will they begin to grow and mature?
On the other hand, if you are smart enough to use that part of Paul's letter to justify your stand on an issue, you are also smart enough to realize that you are not supposed to do that! You can't use that scripture to attack your brothers and sisters who see and do those things differently than do you.
In fact, if you were as enlightened as you think that you are, that makes you the strong person of understanding, and the other person the one who is weak! Instead of trying to force them to agree with you, isn't Paul telling you to accommodate that "weak" person of "poor understanding" who thinks that one may hold a particular day as special to them? Aren't you supposed to "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another"?
No, to say that you are weak and are being offended is a poor defense for your animosity and belligerence toward those who keep one day as special above other days. If you are weak, let these ancient inspired Christian writers speak to you:
Romans 14:1 "Him that is weak in the faith receive
ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one
believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let
not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God
hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his
own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is
able to make him stand.
These are the words of the apostle Paul that precede the ones about accommodating the weak Christian. In them, he says that Christians are to accept one another without arguing over things that God doesn't care about, one way or the other, such as what is eaten or whether days are kept as special or treated all the same. We are not to judge, condemn, or argue with one another, about these personal practices. We answer to, and are judged by, our Master, who is God, through Jesus Christ. Our master can hold us up, even if our brother thinks that we have fallen.
The apostle Paul said that we are not to judge one another, which Jesus also taught.
Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that ye be not judged.
1 Corinthians 4:3
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of
man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
And, if weakness is your defense, heed what those ancient holy men wrote about that.
1 Corinthians 3:1 "And I, brethren, could not
speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in
Hebrews 5:11 "Of whom we have many things to
say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
It takes a spiritually mature Christian to understand some parts of Christ's and His apostles' teaching. One who chooses to remain weak in understanding, and lacking in spiritual growth, is like a baby when it comes to handling the word of God. He or she is unskillful and not qualified to teach others. So, if you are claiming spiritual weakness, quit trying to teach others--you are not qualified!
Grow up! Learn what the Holy Bible is teaching us! Learn to rightly divide the word, as the apostle Paul told his protégé, Timothy.
Love, in Christ,