JohnSWilson3 Blog

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
October 25, 2009, 2:07 pm
Filed under: L Letter to Romans

Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians has been refreshing and breathtaking! He has described the awesome love, grace, and mercy of God to both Jew and Gentile, and then in Christ we are one body and live in community with one another by the life of His Spirit! This life is expressed by Jesus Himself through His body and this expression is that of sacrificial love.

In chapters 14 and 15 Paul now relates probably the most practical part of the letter to the issue of acceptance in the body of Christ. The most basic of human needs, and yet the most basic needs of authentic Christian community. Because we live in a world of distinctions that create stereotypes, prejudices, and divisions Paul wants to make clear that this is not how followers of Jesus live in His kingdom. Paul wrote a year or so earlier to the Corinthians that believers are to “no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” There are no distinctions in the body of Christ. Years earlier, Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” About the same time frame even James, one of the elders of Jerusalem wrote to the persecuted Christians who had left the simple organic life in the home churches of Jerusalem to start other organic churches in regions beyond Jerusalem said “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism…don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged.” Again to the Corinthians Paul wrote to them saying: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all of its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” As a result we are to see Christ in every believer, because God only sees Jesus when He sees every believer. Yet, we are to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” This light, this expression of love, is Jesus shining through us! Probably the greatest way we can see Jesus expressed in the body of Christ is when we die to ourselves and “accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”

Because Christians are constantly being born there are always going to be those who are ahead in the journey with Jesus. Because of our flesh we will be tempted to be religious and conceited, however minor the distinctions we make between those who are weak and strong in the faith. Jesus said we were never to lord it over others, that is not the way of the kingdom! To those who are a little ahead in the journey Paul says to “accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Opinions are a dime a dozen as the saying goes. Everyone has one. Things that are disputable could be what you eat, what you don’t eat, whether you think one day is more special than another day or one who “considers every day alike.” Therefore for those who are strong or weak in the faith we are not to “judge your brother” or “look down on your brother” on disputable matters. Why? Because ” we will all stand before God’s judgment seat…each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another” because we cannot judge the motives of a man’s heart only God can. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Is what we say and do when we come together leading to peace and mutual edification? Is Jesus the sole focus of our meetings? Is He the head and body?! Or are we the focus, are we edifying ourselves instead of others? Do we like to hear ourselves talk and perform, or manipulate others for our purposes, or are we willing to lay that down at the foot of the cross and let our other brothers and sisters participate in the body of Christ?

Paul had plenty of practice being a peacemaker with the Corinthians, and think this essentially lays out what most of his letters to the church in Corinth spells out in great detail. Paul lays much of the responsibility of peacemaking with those who are further on in the journey with Jesus. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” If you have known Jesus for a while then it is your responsibility to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to realize they are one in Jesus with you and that you are just a follower like they are and are in process in the journey like they are. If you feel like you need to control others, to control the meetings in the homes where brothers and sisters meet with Jesus, whether intentionally or unintentionally, be careful, you will have to “give an account of (yourself) to God.” I sure do not want to be in that position, where I think I need to control Jesus. Is it any wonder Paul’s anthem in life was “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Paul could have really put himself up on a pedestal but he didn’t. This is the same theme from Romans 12 where Paul rings out the words “therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

What do you need to die to? What do I need to die to? In my spirit Jesus is speaking even to me. My personality, my gifts, my talents, my religious views/opinions, my institutional Christian views/opinions, my need to be right, etc.? Anything that makes you feel important can be a stumbling block for others knowing Christ in an intimate way. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant…so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.” A servant! Do you see it brothers and sisters? “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

For those strong in the faith your function is to accept others, to serve, to encourage others to know Christ intimately by allowing others to fully participate in the body through the face-to-face open meetings “in order to bring praise to God”! Don’t force others to participate, be quiet and still before your Lord and let Jesus show up in His body! Trust Jesus in this. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” You have Jesus in you! He can help you to overcome your biases, to put off the old man and put on the new man, and accept your other brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said he would build His church, let’s let Him. “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.”


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