Written for a theological site to which I contribute:
Last week we had quite a discussion going, amongst several threads, on what it means to be the weaker brother. In defining the weaker brother, we also seemed to define the stronger brother. We discussed how “offending” the weaker brother went along with the Greek word “skandalon,” which had to do with causing someone to fall into sin. Our modern definition of offending someone by causing him to turn his nose up at you and sniff didn’t seem to make the cut in the Bible. 🙂
All that to say, after much thought and reading and checking of my heart, I have come to the belief that deferring to the weaker brother only counts if he never realizes I have done it.
If I blast a trumpet and parade before the weaker brother (and others) the fact that I am deferring to him *because* he is the weaker brother, then (ding, ding, ding) I lose. Major fail.
So a huge part of deferring to the weaker brother is to refrain from shoving the title of weaker brother down his throat, even if he perceives, by my very deference to him, that he is the stronger brother and I am the weaker one. If he does, that’s God’s business, not mine.
You see, we all, as God’s image bearers, have a dignity that accrues to us as the crown of His creation. Some of us are more insistent on preserving that dignity than others are, but we all have it. We all also have a tendency to think that preserving our own dignity sometimes means sacrificing the dignity of others. We have a hard time thinking of how to make a situation win-win, so we settle for making it win-lose, as long as it is the other guy who loses. If we can paste a pejorative title on him–and “weaker brother” will do–we have maintained our standing as “king of the universe” and can move happily on.
Unfortunately, when we are in the midst of fighting to the death to preserve our own dignity and pasting pejorative titles on others to make sure we keep our reputation intact we may . . . ourselves become the weaker brother. It is just a thought.
When we can treat every one of God’s image bearers with dignity, regardless of what they do to us or think of us, then and only then may we begin to approach the coveted “stronger brother” zone.