Dealing with Others’ Weaknesses
I count it a privilege to write to you, and I hope my letter will encourage you.
These past few days, I have thought about how impatient and unloving we often are toward people when dealing with their weaknesses. The Bible teaches us a lot about this subject.
Since the fall of Adam, none of us is perfect. As human beings, we all have areas of strength in our lives—and areas of weaknesses. This is true of our physical body, our mind and our character. For example, one person can easily run 10 miles, while another one is exhausted after only 300 yards. One is very gifted in music, while another one is unable to keep a simple tune. One has great patience, and another one has none at all.
When we become followers of Christ, we are brand-new creations—in our spirit. However, we are still living in the same imperfect body and have the same intelligence, natural gifting and character traits. For the rest of our lives, the Holy Spirit works in us to conform us into the image of Christ. That means, praise God, we are changing and gradually taking on Christ’s character, but we have a long way to go. In fact, the Bible declares that we won’t be perfect until we reach heaven.
So how do we treat others when their weaknesses show up? This is what usually happens: If others have the same weaknesses as we have, we treat them with some understanding and compassion. However, if they are weak in the areas where we ourselves are strong, we condemn them quickly. We show little mercy and understanding for their struggles because we don’t have the same problem. In fact, we lecture them and challenge them to exercise faith, follow our example and change at once. Should they fail, we are likely to write them off and not give them a second chance.
The Apostle Paul was the most bold, fearless, determined and hard-working missionary leader of the first century. Nothing, not even death threats, beatings, stonings, imprisonment, shipwrecks, wild animals, robbers, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, cold and much labor could stop him from proclaiming the Gospel and planting churches (see 2 Corinthians 11:23–28).
Naturally, Paul expected and demanded the same level of boldness, commitment and hard work from anyone who joined his missionary team. John Mark, a young man, traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but he only lasted through a few adventures before he left them to go back home. You see, his weaknesses were fear and lack of commitment to hard work, and he couldn’t handle the intense situations and workload the team encountered.
Later on, when Paul was about to set out for his second missionary journey, he refused to give Mark a second chance to accompany him. He even called him a deserter and one who had not gone with them to the work (see Acts 15:38). You see, at this time in his life, Paul had no compassion for Mark’s weaknesses in the areas where he himself was so strong.
How does Jesus treat us when our weaknesses show up? Jesus doesn’t write us off. Instead, He has understanding and compassion on us and offers us His grace and help to overcome our weaknesses:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15–16).
He even put it in writing that He will complete the work He started in us:
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
This promise gives us the assurance that the Lord will indeed succeed in changing us into His likeness, even in the areas of our present weaknesses. He did it for John Mark. Consider this: Near the end of Paul’s life, he wrote in a letter to Timothy:
Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service (2 Timothy 4:11).
What tremendous work the Holy Spirit must have accomplished in Mark’s life that the Apostle Paul wanted him for service while he was in prison awaiting his execution! No doubt it was a dangerous mission for Mark, but he was no longer fearful and unwilling to work. In fact, Mark had become so useful in service that God chose him to write one of the four Gospels.
What does the New Testament teach us concerning how we should deal with others’ weaknesses? Exactly as Jesus deals with ours!
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves (Romans 15:1).
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Incidentally, these instructions were written by the Apostle Paul after the Holy Spirit helped him to recognize that he too had a weakness he needed to overcome: He lacked Christ’s love, compassion and patience with people who were weak in the areas where he was strong.
My dear sister, let us learn to be compassionate with each other until the Lord has completed His work in us.
May the Lord bless you and keep you close to Himself.
I love you in Jesus,
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