Categories
Disciple-Making Life

Welcome One Another

artem-bali-590526-unsplash

Romans 1-9 gets all the love. All the attention. As it should. It’s a dynamic exposition of sin, God’s wrath, justification by faith, and the power of the Spirit. It’s a tour de force from the Apostle Paul.

But today, as I’m finishing up reading through Romans, it struck me how important Romans 14 and the first six verses of chapter 15 are. I was struck a second time when I realized how vital they are for Christians, particularly in the United States, at this particular juncture in history.

To sum it up, Paul first tells his readers that Christians are not to pass judgment in non-essential matters (in his context, he’s referring to the choice to observing festival days or not). In non-essentials, people are free to do what they like (provided, of course, they aren’t being a jerk doing it.) Everyone is accountable to the Lord in these matters.

Second, he writes that believers are not to cause others to stumble. Paul isn’t forbidding women from wearing a bikini, here (that’s an entirely different blog post). Rather, he’s cautioning his readers to watch their actions so that others aren’t tempted to return to a particular lifestyle they had before their conversion.

Then, at the beginning of chapter 15, Paul gets at the root: Don’t live to please yourself. Live to please your neighbor. Welcome one another.

In other words, people–even other Christians–are different than you. We agree on the most fundamental tenants of our faith. But there are other areas where we disagree. Welcome these people. All of these people. Live in harmony with them. Love them. Accommodate them.

Welcome one another. 

Why?

Christ has welcomed you.

Why would Paul say that? Thick guilt trip? No. True freedom from the peripheral entanglements that enslave us? Yes. Jesus has welcomed all sorts of people into his kingdom, and there’s one common denominator. He is God and everyone else is not. That’s quite the difference. That’s quite the welcoming.

If Christ can welcome sinners, like you and me, we can welcome brothers and sisters in Christ who have different affiliations or are in another tribe, whether they are political, social, racial, economic, or otherwise. We can say to them, “I know we don’t see eye to eye on some things, but please come in. You’re family.”

Will there be some things to sort out? Oh my, yes. Will there be some course corrections that need to be made? Definitely. Will there need to be contrite confessions and long-term changes made? On all sides.

But what divides Christians in this country today is no worse than what divided Jews and Gentiles in the first century. Consider that task! The power to change back then and now is found only in the person of Jesus Christ, the One who welcomed rebellious enemies into his fold. It’s easy for us Christians to forget that even (especially!) we need Jesus.

At the end of the day, Jesus did not live for himself. He gave himself away.

Are we willing to do the same?

Categories
Theology

The Church as the Ultimate Barrier Breaker

I often find myself forgetting that I am one individual member of an absolutely enormous body called the Church. Still more, I forget this Church is a Body that is incredibly diverse.  Spending 2009 in South Africa helped me in this, but I’m still learning to think outside of my own little kingdom.  This Body isn’t diverse just because it has hands and feet and ears.  It’s diverse because the hands are African and the ears are Latino and the feet are Asian, along with a thousand other races, people groups, and languages.

Wayne Grudem reminded me of this today in his Systematic Theology:

When Paul preaches the gospel both to Jews and to Gentiles, and they become unified in the one body of Christ (Eph. 3:6), the incredible “mystery” that was “hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph. 3:9) is plain for all to see, namely, that in Christ such totally diverse people become unified…If the Christian church is faithful to God’s wise plan, it will be always in the forefront in breaking down racial and social barriers in societies around the world, and will thus be a visible manifestation of God’s amazingly wise plan to bring great unity out of great diversity and thereby to cause all creation to honor him (emphasis added).

God is more glorified in redeeming a diverse people and bringing them to unity.  Yet God spares us from uniformity, unlike other religions.  That’s the great thing about the Church: oneness in the midst of difference.  And what is our unity centered upon?  None other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church.

I want to be more diligent in praying that the Church would be at the forefront of race reconciliation and social justice.  The world really is watching.

Related Post