1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2– Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Romans 15:1-7
This is our standard when we have disputes over third-level issues in the church— not to defend our own freedoms or to impose our own strict rules on others, but to “please [our] neighbor for his good, to build him up” (15: 2), and to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed [us], for the glory of God” (15: 7). J.D. Crowley writes, “We win by losing; we live by dying; we gain by letting go.”
Christians with a strong conscience have two options (eating or abstaining) while the weak have just one option (abstaining), and since the strong consider themselves to be more knowledgeable than the weak, the strong are the ones with an obligation to give up their rights so as to not lead their weaker brothers into sin. This does not mean that the strong have to agree with the position of the weak. It does not even mean that the strong can never again make use of their freedom. On the other hand, neither does it mean that the strong only put up with or endure or tolerate the weak, like a person who tolerates someone he doesn’t like. To bear with means that he gladly helps the weak by refraining from doing anything that would hurt their faith.
Paul is not instructing us to be man-pleasers here. The choice is not between pleasing men and pleasing God, but between pleasing others and pleasing ourselves. It means pleasing others for their good, not pleasing others in order to escape persecution or opposition.
We cannot even begin to imagine the freedoms and privileges that belonged to the Son of God in heaven. To be God is to be completely free. Yet Christ “did not please himself,” but gave up his rights and freedoms to become a servant so that we could be saved from wrath.) Over and over scripture commands us to follow the example of Christ in pleasing others instead of ourselves. Compared to what Jesus suffered on the cross, we are making a small sacrifice indeed when we give up our freedom for a fellow Christian.
Crowley again nails this truth when he says, “We must keep the big things big. God does not allow us to have unity with Christians who reject the major doctrines of the faith, such as salvation by grace, the resurrection of Christ, and the infallibility of scripture. And… We must keep the small things small. God does not allow us to break unity with Christians who disagree with us on minor matters. Both errors are serious sins against Christ and his church.“