One of the most interesting features of reading Paul is that it is like listening to one end of a phone conversation. And, all we have is a taped recording of the conversation. And we are listening almost 2000 years later. And we have to guess what the other person was saying to Paul in order to make sense of what Paul was saying back.
“We who are strong ought to put up [better, “carry the load”] with the failings [better, “weaknesses”] of the weak [better, “powerless”], and not to please ourselves” (Rom 15:1). Now it would be great to know what the “weak” or the other “strong” were saying, but we don’t.
What we do know is that Paul says we should not live “to please ourselves.” Instead, each of us “must please our neighbor.” To please ourselves is to insist on our way; to please the neighbor is not to agree with them and adopt their viewpoint but to help them on their way to maturity without harming their development.
Now let me open up a box: we differ on some matters in theology that matter deeply to us. How should we respond? Should we demand that others agree with us, or should we pursue the good in the other view? Should we be inherently sympathetic? Or is this “theology” outside what Paul is saying about the strong and weak?