Beginning in chapter 14 and spilling over into chapter 15, Paul teaches the Roman Christians how to deal with their theological and lifestyle differences. They are not to condemn each other, but to allow for diversity of opinion with respect to inessential matters. Moreover, those who are mature in faith should make special allowance for the less mature, going out of their way not to hinder their growth in Christ.
Paul sums up his instruction in Romans 15:7: “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” “Accept” is a possible translation of the Greek verb proslambano, though it misses the implied warmth. “Welcome one another” captures this nuance more completely. All the Roman Christians should welcome each other, just as Christ has welcomed them. Through his death and resurrection, Christ welcomed each of them freely and fully, even though they were undeserving. His welcome had nothing to do with the worthiness of those being welcomed. Rather, it had everything to do with his grace.
Thus, we are to welcome our brothers and sisters in Christ with the same welcome that Christ has extended to us. In spite of our differences, we embrace each other even as Christ has embraced us.
In my work at Laity Lodge, I get to practice this verse on a regular basis. At our retreats, we host Christians from a variety of denominational and nondenominational backgrounds. We try hard to respect people’s differences and to help them feel at home in matters of worship, music, prayer, and fellowship. For Episcopal groups, we make sure to have wine for the Eucharist. For Baptists, we have grape juice. We try to use music that is familiar to those that are present. Most of all, in our interaction with each and every person, we strive to welcome people as Christ has welcomed us: graciously and lovingly. We want folks to feel truly at home at Laity Lodge.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: When have you experienced welcome of the sort prescribed in Romans 15:7? How might you be able to extend this welcome to others...even today?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, how I thank you for welcoming me into fellowship with you. Though I did not deserve such a welcome, you graciously drew me to yourself. Your death and resurrection opened the door to intimate fellowship with you. Your Spirit allows me to commune with you throughout the day. Thank you!
Help me, Lord, to welcome others as you have welcomed me. That’s easy with people I like, or with those who are like me. But I ask that you help me to welcome those I don’t necessarily like, or those who differ from me in the way they live out their faith.
Help your church, Lord, to learn how to be a truly welcoming community. May we open our doors and hearts to others. And may we do this in such a way that you receive all the glory. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
During the last few weeks of the summer, I take a break from writing new reflections. We’ll be sending out reflections I wrote a couple of years ago on Paul’s letter to the Romans. I pray that God uses these to deepen your relationship with him and to strengthen your faithfulness as his disciple. We’ll be sending out new reflections beginning on Tuesday, September 4.