Yesterday we read, “Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Rom 15:2). Paul is saying two important things about this attitude of Christian liberty. First, the “strong” believers are right to recognize that nothing is, itself, unclean (1 Tim 4:4). Second, these believers should be willing to forego that freedom for the sake of those who are not yet strong enough in their faith to participate in those things.
“For even Christ did not please himself. On the contrary, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me’.” (Rom 15:3) Paul reminds us that we are following Christ, and Christ did not please Himself in this life. He lived a life of self-sacrifice in serving and pleasing others.
Paul quotes from Psalm 69:9, applying it to Jesus. In that context, the reproaches—the mockery and criticism—of those who reproached God the Father fell on Christ. By comparison, Paul seems to be saying, strong-faith Christians should be willing to give up meat, or give up wine, or to skip the Sabbath, or any other matter of their personal freedom, for the sake of building up their weaker siblings in Christ. Paul reminds us why he used Scripture to make his point: “For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.” (Rom 15:4)
Now Paul offers a prayer to our Lord of endurance and encouragement. “Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mind and one voice.” (Rom 15:5-6)
Paul views God as the ultimate source of encouragement and endurance, the One who will lift us up and help us to keep going. Paul asks God to give to the Christians in the church in Rome the ability to live in harmony with each other as they all live in accord—or in step—with Jesus Himself. We exist to glorify God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the ways we accomplish that, according to Paul’s prayer, is by living in unity as if singing with one voice. In other words, Paul prays that the Christians in Rome will be unified in their purpose to glorify God together as if they were all singing the same song.
It’s a beautiful picture of what life in the church should be like. To get there, though, Paul has made it clear that both the strong and weak in faith (Rom 14:1) will have to yield to each other and refuse to judge each other (Rom 14:13). We will have to set ourselves aside to be able to harmonize and sing with one voice, which is the very picture we have that our life is not our own: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)