Summary: God has called us to live hope, not just talk about it.
1. Illus...The Ancient Roman World
a. The best social status you could have was to “a wealthy freeborn citizen and the lowest on that social scale would be a female child.
b. “The patron-client relationship”
The patron was seen as the protector of the client - providing legal help & protection fro enemies. The client in turn owed the patron respect & deference.
1. Exam.- A client may be invited to the Patron’s banquet table for show, not out of genuine friendship...CF-with political shows today!
c. There was an attitude toward the lower classes. The honorable looked down upon the humble. RF-The Rich man & Lazarus
d. Classical literature is filled with upper class sneers at laziness, poverty, & servility of the poor.
1. Cicero speaks with disgust when he refers to craftsmen, petty shopkeepers and all the filth of the city.
2. Another wrote: I hate poor people.
e. James writes: “Is it not the rich who oppress you....?”
f. Exam of wealthy Christians: Aquila & Pricilla (Tent makers); Phoebe, Lydia, & Mark.
Trans...It was not as easy to climb the social status in that culture as it is in ours. But Christians have no social classes or ladders to climb. There are no rich or poor, patron or client, slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Christ Jesus. The ground is all level at the foot of the cross. But that does not mean that there is no growth, no fruitfulness, no learning. That does not mean that we as Christian have no desire to improve mentally, socially, and financially. It does not mean that we have no ambition or desire. The vast difference lies in the motive of why you are doing what you are doing and the results (fruit) will be different from that of the world. Take for instance this Christian quality (fruit) of hope. Hope means to desire with expectation of receiving it. This passage shows us how to put hope into action. We should be living letters of hope by:
I. Bearing with others VS 1
A. We who are strong (in faith, & spirit) ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength.
1. Remember that Paul is wring from the context of the Roman culture. How would the Roman world have viewed the weak.
(a) Illus...What they did with unwanted baby girls.
(b) Remember the Rich man & Lazarus
2. Are the weaknesses of those who are without strength a burden to you? Good!! Because that’s where your cross is at. Right here is where real teaching takes place. This is the area of real leadership, real discipleship, and real mentoring! Quit crying, grumbling, fault finding & complaining & pick up your cross.
3. And when you pick it up do it with such enthusiasm that all you communicate is hope! If you can’t do that then you may be the weaker brother! And possible the one you look down upon may be available to reach over & help you carry your burden of weaknesses.
Trans...We can be living epistles of hope by bearing with our neighbors for their good to their edification.
II. Bearing by working for the good that edifies. Vs 2
A. Illus...In the Roman culture the client owed the Patron his service because of benefits that the Patron could provide for him.
1. You cannot always please men & God
2. Colossians 3:22-23 “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men....”
3. CF-Eph. 6:6 repeats but adds: “...masters, do the same thing to them, and give up threatening...both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.”
4. Illus...The letter to Philemon the slave owner
(a) Paul’s plea for Onesimus...he came a slave & I’m sending him back a free person and also a brother of yours. So treat him as such!
(b) And if he owes you anything, charge it to my account.
Trans...Which brings me to another way to give hope by bearing the reproaches of those who insult your brothers & sisters.
III. Bearing the reproaches of others Vs 3
A. Illus...My first Grade school love affair.
1. I feel the same way toward my wife!
2. We have a oneness...what you do to one you do to both of us.
B. Reproach means: to accuse or blame someone for a fault so as to make them feel ashamed
C. Illus...Picture of Christian leadership: Moses...refused to be known as the son of pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God.... ...he regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ of greater value than all the treasurers of Egypt. When God wanted to destroy them because of their rebellion it was Moses who cried out to god to take him instead, the very same way that Paul prayed for the Jews who mistreated him.