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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother

By J.R. Miller

      Paul had a good deal to say about the 'weak brother'. The substance of his teaching is that those who are strong ought to be careful not to harm him who is weak in any way. They should be willing for his sake to make sacrifices of personal rights and privileges. We must modify and adjust our own life to bring it down to the level of the weak brother. We may not ignore him in the asserting of our own liberty. The great ship in the channel may not go ploughing on its way with no regard for the smaller ships pursuing their course in the same channel.

      The great man in pursuing his course must think of the little men that are in his way. We may not live for ourselves alone. If you are one in a company of men traveling to gather, and are strong and swift-footed, you may not set the pace for the party; you must hold your strength in restraint and accommodate your speed to the weak and slow-stepping members. The strong must help the weak, must be gentle toward them, patient with them.

      A little story poem tells of a race. A number of runners were on the course. There was one who at first seemed destined to outstrip all the others. The way was long, and the goal far away. Still the favorite kept in the lead. But those who were watching the race saw this man stop by and by to lift up a little child that had fallen in the way and take it out of danger. A little later, a comrade fainted and he turned aside to help him. A woman appeared, frail and inexperienced, and he lingered to help her find the way. The watchers saw the favorite again and again leave his race to comfort, cheer, or help those who were in distress or peril. Meanwhile he lost his lead, and others passed him; and when the winners reached the goal he was far behind. He did not receive the prize for the race--but the real honor was his. Love had ruled his course, and the blessing of many helped by him, was his. The only true monument anyone can have is built of love.

      There are men of ambition who harden their hearts against every appeal of human weakness, frailty, or suffering. They pay no heed to the needs that come before their eyes. They never turn away from their strenuous course to help a brother. They run their business on lines of strict justice, perhaps--but justice untempered by love or mercy. They demand always their pound of flesh. They put no kindness into their dealings. They pay small wages and exact the utmost of toil and service. They never turn aside to help a fainting one. They tell you there is no place for sentiment in business. They reach their goal they become rich and great--but they have crushed the weak under their feet.

      There are other men who turn aside continually to help the feeble and the fainting, to be a comfort to the weak. They may not get along so well in the competition for power, money, or fame, but, no weak brother perishes through their ambition; no sufferer is left unhelped because they have not time to answer his cries. They leave no wreckage of little boats behind them in the water, as they move on their course.

      There are a great many weak brothers in the world. There are those who are physically weak. Some are lame. Some have feeble health. Some suffer from the infirmities of old age. What is the duty of the strong to the weak? Should they hold themselves aloof--and refuse to accept any burden, care, interest, or sympathy? A strong man may say, "I cannot take time from my business to do anything for this weak brother." But is not the strong man strong for the very purpose of helping the brother who is weak? The mountains in their majesty and strength, minister to the plains below, to every little valley, to every flower and blade of grass, to every beast and bird. "The Alps were not uplifted merely to be gazed at and admired by pleasure-seeking tourists--but to feed the Rhine, and to nourish the teeming cities on its banks." But God does not give certain men strength and position, fine personality and great influence, merely that they may stand up high among their fellows, towering above them, to be admired and honored. They have their strength and their abilities--that they may be a blessing to those who are less highly favored.

      In almost every community, there is one who is intellectually weak, a foolish boy or man, or a girl or woman who lacks ability to take her place among her sisters. Sometimes such a person is made the sport of neighbors, of those who are bright and talented, laughed at, even treated rudely, cruelly. It is a pitiable sight to see one who is feeble-minded, who has not wit enough to take his place among others. It is pathetic to see one buffeted and abused by those to whom God has given good mental abilities. It is beautiful to see a bright, manly boy become the champion and friend of another boy who is almost imbecile, protecting him from the sport of others.

      It is told of Edward Eggleston that in his boyhood he and his companions were forming a literary society. The membership they determined should include only the best boys and young men of the place. None who were undesirable should be admitted. There was one boy in the neighborhood who was mentally deficient, who greatly desired to join the society, that he might learn to "speak pieces," he said. Most of the boys laughed at the suggestion that he should be admitted. But young Eggleston, with a manly earnestness, favored receiving him. "We have no right," he said, "to keep all our good things to ourselves. This poor boy will do us no harm, and it will please him and it may do him good." he pleaded for the boy so earnestly that he was admitted. It made him very happy, and he became fairly bright.

      This was a Christly thing to do. Jesus would have treated the boy just as Edward Eggleston did. He never broke even a bruised reed, so loving was he toward the weak. We should seek to get the lesson into all our conduct. If there is a bashful girl in the neighborhood, or a shy, retiring boy--these are the ones to whom Jesus would have the young people show the greatest attention in their social life. Those for whom most people do not care--are the ones for whom Jesus would care the most tenderly--if he were here. Those who need the most help--are the ones Jesus himself helps the most.

      Some people are weak in their character. The Master was infinitely patient with those who stumbled and fell. On his ears, as he stood in the place of trial, wearing the crown of thorns, fell the words of bitter denial front the lips of his chief disciple, and they must have pierced his heart like thorns. But he spoke not one condemning word. He only looked toward Peter with grief, not with anger, winning him back to loyalty. Then when he returned from the grave, he sent his first message to Peter, "Tell the disciples and Peter that I have risen." A little later he appeared to Peter, first of the apostles. With wonderful love he surrounded this sinning, fallen disciple, that he might save him. Think what would have been the result if Jesus had not been thus loving and patient with Peter in those terrible hours. Peter never would have been restored. Think what a loss it would have been to the church in all ages, if he had perished.

      We think that we are strong, that we cannot fall--and so we condemn those who stumble. But we do not know that we are really strong. We dare not say we could not fall. When another Christian falls--it befits us to be most watchful over ourselves, lest we also be tempted. We do not know how a harsh or severe word may imperil the weak brother who has slipped or stumbled. If we treat him in a severe and condemning way, we may cause him much harm. We must be as Christ to Him. Let the Master find genuine love in us. It is well to tell him of the love of Christ for him, of Christ's patience, gentleness, and compassion--but if he does not find these qualities of love in our treatment of him, what we have told him about them, will make small impression upon him.

      Some Christians claim they have a right to drink alcohol moderately, and that it does not hurt them. Paul would say to these men: "Very well; I grant all you say, at least for the sake of argument. You are strong and are never going to come under the power of alcohol. You have liberty to have your wine on your table every day. Yes--but what about the weak brother who is influenced by your example--yet who has not your strength and cannot withstand the temptation of alcohol, as you think you can do? What about him? Through your knowledge he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died!"

      Some say: "I cannot care for my weak brother. I cannot like him. I cannot have any patience with him. He is narrow and bigoted and has so many scruples that there is no getting along with him. Or he is not bright and I cannot enjoy being with him or doing anything for him. Or he is rude and low in his tastes. I cannot be the weak brother's friend."

      "For whose sake Christ died," seems to answer all these difficulties. Since Christ loved the weak brother enough to die for him, I ought to love him enough to be kind to him, to be his friend, to do him good, at least not to cause him to perish! This is a tremendous motive. The fact that Jesus died for the weak brother, suggests his worth in the sight of God.

      There is a story of a woman who made her house a home for crippled and diseased children. Among those gathered under her care, was a boy of three who was a pitiable object. He was covered with blotches. The good woman could not love him, he was so repulsive, although she was always kind to him. One day she was sitting on the veranda with this boy in her arms. The sun was warm, and in the perfume of the honcysuckles she slept. She dreamt of herself as having changed places with the child and as lying there, only more repulsive in her sinfulness than he was in his physical condition. And over her the Lord Jesus was bending and looking into her eyes with longing, saying to her, "If I can bear with you who are so full of sin, and love you in spite of it all--can you not for my sake love this poor child who is suffering not for his own sin but for the sin of his parents?"

      She awoke with a sudden startle, and looked into the boy's face. He had waked, too, and was looking intently at her. The passion of love came into her heart, and in her new emotion she bent down and kissed him as tenderly as ever she had kissed child of her own. The boy gave her a smile, so sweet she had never seen one like it before. From that moment a wonderful change came over the child. Love had transformed him from peevishness and fretfulness, into gentle quiet and beauty.

      This is the vision we have in Paul's words, "The weak brother perishes for whom Christ died--perishes through your strength, your goodness." He is weak and perishes for lack of your love, he for whom Christ died. How the picture startles us! Surely we cannot think unkindly, harshly, or neglectfully any more, of the weak brother--when we remember that the Son of God gave himself to redeem him! There are lives all about us which seem to have lost their beauty and their splendor. They appear dull and lustreless. Yet in them sleep glorious possibilities. They need only the touch of love to bring out in them the divine loveliness.

      They are all about us, these weak brothers. They have not our strength. They are unable to stand in the front rank to do great things. They are weak in their disposition--full of scruples, not easy to get along with. They are weak in their character--easily tempted, falling back readily into the old, bad ways. They are weak in their business life, never getting on. We need more and more to become helpers of the weak, whatever the form of their weakness may be. We ought, with our disciplined power--to be a home, a shelter, a refuge--for all weak or weary ones who come under our influence. Let them find love in us, for they have never found it in anyone else. Let the weakest find love in us, though no where else, have they had any welcome. The sweetest and the strongest--should be the gentlest. Let us go slower--because the weak brother cannot go fast. Do not get vexed with the weak brother's scruples or unreasonable ways. Be sure that no weak brother shall ever perish through your superior strength and knowledge. Remember always, that Christ died for the weak brother!

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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