Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Romans 15: Why can't we all just get along?

I am a Christian. I love my brothers and sisters. But to be honest, I don't like each and every one. In my deceptive heart of hearts I am pretty sure the cause is his or her shortcoming, not my impatience, prejudice, and pride. The problem ain't my flesh.

Brother Paul knows a thing or two about disunity, seeing how his whole ministry involves reconciling people from two antagonistic cultures. Hello, my name is Paul, I've come to Belfast with some good news: you Irish Catholics and Protestants are brothers and God wants you to love each other! Good morning, Jerusalem - Arabs and Jews can give each other the kiss of peace, 'cause if you believe in Jesus you can be one big happy family!

Compared to Paul's challenges, American Christians' differences - hymns vs. praise songs! - seem pretty superficial.

Paul gives at least three directives about unity:

1) "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of those who are weak."

2) Paul prays for 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." One heart and mouth - inside and outside - focused on glorifying God. Sounds like the Body of Christ!

3) "Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." How, exactly, does accepting one another bring praise to God? Well, for one, it makes the accepted person feel very grateful and loved, and so he/she rightfully gives thanks and praise to the ultimate Source of love and acceptance. Second, this kind of loving acceptance is so unexpected that onlookers find it remarkable and praiseworthy.

I am thankful for the countless brothers and sisters who accepted me without rejection and judging, even when I gave them ample opportunity. They have been like Christ to me.

"Not my sister, not my brother, but it's me, Lord, but it's me - standing in the need of prayer."

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