Having positively raced through a whole chapter at the last Bible study (Romans 14), we resumed our more usual pace tonight, looking at Romans 15:1-4. Yet again, the chapter looks at the idea of worship being a giving of ourselves, a surrender which leads to service. The strong are urged to bear with the failings of the weak and to support them. Christians have a social responsibility towards the weak, seen from passages such as Ex 22:21-22, Deut 10:18, Is 1:17 and Acts 6:1-4. This makes no sense to those who believe in the evolutionary outlook. If humans are no different to animals really and all that matters is the survival of the fittest, there is nothing to stop us eliminating all those we deem ‘unfit’ – philosophies which led to the atrocities of Nazism or the dangers of eugenics. Christianity teaches, however, that we are all indeed our brother’s keeper and have a responsibility not simply to please ourselves, but to do all we can to encourage and build others up. The strong are urged to use their strength to support others, just as Christ Himself did not come to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:27-28, John 13:12-17).

Paul reminds us in verse 4 that all Scripture is given to teach us and encourage us, helping us to endure and therefore to have hope, no matter what we go through. Endurance is more than simply waiting patiently (as the farmers do – see James 5:7). It is the characteristic of “one who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” We can’t deny that suffering and trials occur, but God, through Scripture, through His Holy Spirit and through other Christians, is able to encourage us and comfort us (see 2 Cor 1:3-7). Endurance and encouragement lead to hope and hope in turn builds our ability to endure and gives us further encouragement! 1 Thess 1:2-3 reminds us of the “work produced by faith, the labour prompted by love and the endurance inspired by hope” which the Thessalonian Christians showed. May we too see this never-ending circle in our own lives and be able to encourage and build others up in this most holy faith.