“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.” Romans 15:5-7
We all want to be accepted, to belong to a group of people who love us and like us. As Christians, it is so important that we learn to love and welcome others. No one ever accepted Christ from being judged and excluded!
While it’s hard sometimes to want to be friends with everyone, Paul does a beautiful job speaking to the church in Rome about the motivation for getting along with others. He says to “Accept one another […] just as Christ accepted you.” What a powerful reminder!
As painful as it is to be left out or rejected with our peers, if Christ hadn’t come, we would have never been able to be in right relationship with God. No matter how many times we might try to atone for our sins, none of our deeds could make us worthy enough to be close to God.
But Jesus. Because of God’s great love for us, He sent His only Son to live on earth and die for our sins. All atonement was finished once and for all on the cross. And because of Jesus’s sacrifice, we are accepted fully, just as we are in our imperfect state.
This should make us the most loving, excited, inclusive people in the world! We have been accepted and loved just because Christ loved us! We did nothing to earn it! And because we have been given such a great gift, we have the ability to invite others in.
Frederick Beuchner shares this sentiment of joy and invitation in his book Telling Secrets. He writes:
“We are above all things loved–that is the good news of the gospel–and loved not just the way we turn up on Sundays in our best clothes and on our best behavior and with our best feet forward, but loved as we alone know ourselves to be, the weakest and shabbiest of what we are along with the strongest and gladdest. To come together as people who believe that just maybe this gospel is actually true should be to come together like people who have just won the Irish Sweepstakes. It should have us throwing our arms around each other like people who have just discovered that every single man and woman in those pews is not just another familiar or unfamiliar face but is our long-lost brother and our long-lost sister because despite the fact that we have all walked in different gardens and knelt at different graves, we have all, humanly speaking, come from the same place and are heading out into the same blessed mystery that awaits us all. This is the joy that is so apt to be missing, and missing not just from church but from our own lives–the joy of not just managing to believe at least part of the time that it is true that life is holy, but of actually running into that holiness head-on.”
May we celebrate the good news of the Gospel today and invite others into this great news!