Does the motivation matter? I think so. Today’s verse is short, but it is giving me a great deal to think about. What exactly is God asking me to do?
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2)Besides the obvious meaning, this Greek word for pleasing another person means “to accommodate one’s self to the opinions, desires and interests of others.”
When I try to put that in practical terms, I run into the problem of people whose opinions, desires and interests are self-centered. They only talk about themselves, their own wants and comforts. Does God really want me to accommodate myself to that? And if so, how?
Or what about the person who gets a big kick out of hurting people and blaspheming God? What if they have a sinful indulgence? I’m I to accommodate myself to that? I don’t think so.
I do know that God’s definition of “for his good” is a lot different than most human definitions. His definition goes far beyond temporary and selfish pursuits. Even though Jesus healed the sick and had compassion on needy people, He also scolded them for following Him around just to get food. His ultimate reason for being here was “to seek and to save the lost” not make everyone comfortable.
It seems then, if I am going to please my neighbor for his good and build him up, I need to think of how God thinks about this. Pleasing them is not about what I think is good for someone or even what they think is good for them. It is certainly is about a person’s eternal well-being. But what else?
I know also that if I bluntly telling an unsaved neighbor that he “needs Jesus if he knows what’s good for him” this is not likely going to please him. I have to think about that person and accommodate my speaking and actions to them so that I am not a pain or obnoxious. At the same time, I’m not to compromise my faith. This neighbor, if I’m reading this verse right, can be pleased with the way I treat him. He can also be built up in the sense that he is drawn to the God I serve without being annoyed with me.
I’m again realizing that every command of God, properly understood, is humanly impossible. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, I simply have no idea how to please my neighbor, at least some of them. Doing so has to be a God-thing.