Romans 15:1-3. NRSV
We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself, but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
This was today’s scripture reading in the United Church of Christ Daily Devotion email. It struck me that in these couple of lines Paul demonstrates just how well he absorbed Jesus’ message. This is “treat others as you wish to be treated,” and “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” and “just as you have done for the least of these, you have done for me,” all wrapped up together.
I preach this a lot. Pretty much every Sunday, in fact. I might not say those exact words but they are always the sub-text. I try to live this way. It isn’t easy to think of the other first, before me. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes not. And sometimes I discover that my efforts at building up my neighbor benefit me pretty significantly.
I have been writing cards to people whose names are in our church directory just about every day. At first it was hard to think of what to say. I’m not really very good at putting personal messages in birthday cards and such, so faced with a blank card I was completely at a loss. Writing just five cards each day was a real challenge. As time went by, however, it became ever so much easier to think of the person to whom I was writing, and put my prayer for them down on paper. This “chore” I assigned myself has become a new daily spiritual discipline. It has improved my prayer life and helped to calm my mind when morning’s newspaper has brought yet another spate of bad news. I write the cards for others in the hopes of giving people a bit of encouragement in a difficult time, and I find myself strengthened for the day. Who knew?
Gracious Lord, may we continue to keep your commandments in our hearts, as we seek ways to build up the other. Amen.