Over the last two chapters of our study, Paul has certainly made it clear that part of lovingly exercising our religious liberty to do the debatable things, the things not clearly defined as wrong in the Bible, is knowing when not to do something, or knowing when it might cause harm to someone else.
I believe Paul would sum up his argument in this chapter by saying the spirit of charity, or the spirit of love, outweighs all of our other concerns. If we truly love our neighbors as ourselves, then we will not do anything that will harm them. Just as we would not do anything to harm ourselves.
Paul has told us that in the area of essential beliefs, or the things clearly defined in the Bible, we are to have unity. How do we have that unity? By moving closer to Christ.
In the area of non-essential beliefs, or the debatable issues, we are to have liberty. How do we express and enjoy that liberty? By moving closer to Christ.
In all things we are to have charity towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. How are we to show this charity? By loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and spirit. How do we show God that we love Him this much? By moving closer to Christ.
If we do the first commandment, the second commandment will take care of itself.
If we do the second commandment, then we will be our brother’s keeper, and we will do, or not do, what it takes to help build our brother and sister in Christ, spiritually.
So this is the spirit of charity, or love, that we are to have towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. But Paul has not finished yet. I think he knew that if he left it here, depending only on our love for our neighbor, we would respond as we have. So, he has an even higher ground to map out for us. It is a great thing to treat a weaker brother in the spirit of charity, or love. It is a far greater thing to treat them in the spirit of Christ.
In this lesson, Paul will basically ask the question of how far would Christ go in building up a fellow brother or sister in Christ, and then he will tell us that is how far we should go.