The strong and the weak


By Fr. Roy Cimagala

It’s good to be reminded by what St. Paul said about the proper relationship between the strong and the weak among us. It’s in his Letter to the Romans where he said: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” (15,1)

That’s commonsensical enough. It’s a natural thing to happen. We see it first in the family where the parents take care of their children, especially the little ones, and would not mind if they get dirty because of the mess children often do. They will always clean whatever mess the little ones make and in the process, with a lot of patience and tenderness, teach the children how to be more careful.

We cannot deny that in the world in general, we see ourselves in different conditions of being strong and of being weak. It can be in the physical aspect, or the moral and spiritual ones. It can be in terms of talents and other natural endowments. Yes, some are more gifted than others, more fortunate than others.

We should just learn how to deal with others properly. Those who have more of the good things should be more caring, more understanding and compassionate, and eager to help those who have less. The strong among us can bear the weak ones, not the other way around.

This is especially so in the moral and spiritual aspects of our life. Those who are more upright in their behavior, more knowledgeable in the mastery of the doctrine of the faith, and in better position in their Christian life should be more understanding and more eager to help those who are weak in their moral and spiritual lives.

They should avoid being judgmental, judging others according to their own terms and criteria, feeling superior always to the others and having the tendency to distance themselves from the others.

On the contrary, like Christ, those of us who are more gifted in some way should always understand and help the others, trying to enter into their condition through empathy, sympathy and compassion. We should not be indifferent to their condition. Rather, we should be willing to assume their condition without compromising the essential, and with the forcefulness of charity, pull them up.

This is how the heart of Christ, who is our “way, truth and life” for us, worked and continues to work. Like Christ, we should be willing to empty ourselves to be with the others and to be of help to them. (cfr. Phil 2,6-8)

The intriguing part of all this is that it would seem that those who are weak according to some human standards end up helping those who are supposed to be strong. This is because the humility of the weak attracts God more than the advantages of the strong. And with God, the weak can do all things. (cfr. Phil 4,13)

St. Paul explained this phenomenon this way: “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Cor 1,26-29)

We have to be most careful about all this, because what may be considered as strong and weak according to human standards may play the reverse roles according to God’s standards.

What may be strong in human eyes are actually weak in God’s eyes. And the reverse is also true. What may be weak in human eyes are actually strong in God’s eyes, echoing St. Paul’s words: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12,11)