Living in Christian community isn’t always easy. We won’t always get our way, and it necessarily requires self-sacrifice. Some believers are strong in faith (Romans 15:1). Others are weak in faith. These differences will always make living in Christian community challenging and rewarding. Those with strong faith have a responsibility to avoid doing anything that would cause those with weaker faith to stumble, or further weaken (Romans 14:21). This means that not every thought or conviction should be expressed. For the sake of the unity of the church, some things we should keep to ourselves (Romans 14:22).

The creation of a healthy Christian community requires bearing with those who are weak in faith, because the entire Christian life centers around faith. If those who are strong in faith flout openly the convictions of those who are weaker in faith, it could lead the weak to change their behavior. If their behavior change doesn’t come from a place of faith, then they are in spiritual danger, because everything that doesn’t come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Our love and concern for our brothers and sisters should inspire us to protect them. We should protect them from such a compromising position by bearing with their scruples and refusing to please ourselves (Romans 15:1, 2).

The reason that those who are strong are to bear with the scruples of the weak is the incarnation of Jesus (Romans 15:3). When God became a man in Jesus, He chose to seek our good rather than please Himself. He left the glory of heaven to be born in poverty and die a criminal’s death on the cross. He chose to take the reproach of the outcast, the weak, and the sinful. Jesus is our example, and Paul hopes that our patient and comforting God would help us to treat one another as Christ treated us (Romans 14:5). If Jesus left heaven for our sake, then we could surely keep our opinions to ourselves. Then, with the unity we find by following the self-sacrificing example of Jesus, we would be able, with one voice, to bring glory to the Father and Jesus (Romans 14:6).

For Paul, Christian unity isn’t found in uniformity in all our opinions. It is found by receiving one another, just as Christ received us (Romans 14:7). Just as Jesus received sinners (Luke 15:2), so we are to receive one another and not to quarrel about our opinions (Romans 14:1), because opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone has one, and we don’t need to know the details about it.