Romans 15:3, 4
For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached you fell on me.
That alliance is beneficial which lends the aid of the strong to bear the burdens of the weak. Sympathy renders this possible by its real participation in another's distress. Sometimes the infirmities of others are succoured by yielding up our own gratification, or by restricting our own liberty in order not to shock the scruples of the less enlightened. What is our guide in such cases? The reply is - To live in the spirit of Christ, to walk as he walked.
I. CHRIST HAS INTRODUCED INTO MORALS A BEAUTIFUL MODEL AND A POWERFUL MOTIVE. His pattern life is best appreciated by comparing it with ancient heathen manners. The impossibility of inventing such an ideal is the proof of the genuineness of the Gospel narratives. The story is vivid and consistent because a record of fact. An example instructs more than any prolixity of statement or precept. Lecturers know this by their illustrations and experiments. It is one thing to hear of truth, goodness, beauty, from the lips of Plato; quite another to see it live and breathe before our eyes. Cicero could describe the "perfect man" according to his conceptions of perfection; Christ alone exemplified it. And the relationship of Christ to his followers, as not only Teacher but Saviour, imparts tenfold force to his example. He has definite claims upon our obedience, and dearest links of love bind us to the imitation of our Master. His life on earth has been a stream irrigating the parched desert, and has taught us how to make canals of philanthropic benevolence, deriving their idea and element from the river of his love. In fanatical Jerusalem and luxurious Antioch, in philosophic Athens and pleasure-loving Corinth, in colonial Philippi and imperial Rome, this river of grace proved its power to fertilize and beautify. And today we trace a likeness to Christ in the missionary, content to dwell in malarial swamps, and yield his life for the salvation of the degraded; in the tired mother cheerfully continuing at her household toil whilst she uplifts her thoughts to the Redeemer; and in the Church officer leaving his comfortable fireside after his day's work is done to minister to a brother in sickness. In the repression of a hasty word and biting sarcasm, in the gift unostentatiously placed in the hands of the poor, we behold reflected the self-sacrifice of Christ.
II. THE FEATURE OF CHRIST'S LIFE ON WHICH STRESS IS HERE LAID. He was unselfish; he "pleased not himself." This does not imply that he felt no personal pleasure in his mission of mercy. "I delight to do thy will, O my God." But:
1. He sought not to promote his own ease and comfort, but the edification of others. He would not pander to vitiated taste; he taught what men most needed to know, not what gratified the vanity of his hearers, though he, thereby aroused their enmity and created the storm which burst in wrath upon his head. At great cost of physical labour and spiritual weariness he performed works of love. See him asleep from fatigue in the heaving vessel, and fainting under the load of his cross.
2. He gloried not himself, but the work he came to accomplish. He might have summoned angels to his side, he might have led an uprising of the populace, have overawed the rulers, and selected the wisest and wealthiest as his companions and disciples. But the truth was more than all to him. His meat and drink were to do the will of his Father. He had left for this the splendour of the upper realms, and stooped to the form of a servant, and the obedience of a shameful, agonizing death.
III. To FOLLOW CHRIST IS TO MAKE THE OLD TESTAMENT A WELLSPRING OF PATIENCE AND HOPE. The persecution which Christ met with showed him treading in the steps of Scripture heroes. The language of the psalmist is quoted by the apostle as typically expressing the lot of Christ. The chief pangs of a devoted life are caused by the opposition of an ungodly world. Our Lord exposed the hollow pretensions of the Jewish religionists by declaring that true love to God in the heart would listen to the teachings of his Son, would acknowledge in him the promised Messiah, and would recognize in his deeds the echo of the Scriptures. It fortifies Christian sufferers to know that they are in the line of the faithful. No new thing hath happened, for the same afflictions were accomplished in our brethren before. If, then, others have bravely endured and maintained their confidence, so may we. And the ancient writings testify that men, in pleasing God and serving their day and generation, realized true satisfaction, an inward peace and joy indestructible. So we, too, may discover that the road to happiness is holy self-denial. We are slow to learn that the bitter rind covers grateful fruit, that death is the gate to life, and humility the stepping-stone to honour. Obedience prepares us to wield authority; and to walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing is to prove how inseparably the kingdom of God and our own good are combined. Miserly selfishness overreaches itself; the restricted heart dies of inanition. He who will always get from others knows not the blessedness of giving. The wine of Christian charity flushes the spirit with a generous emotion, pure and God-like, the nectar of the skies. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.