“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:5-7 ESV).
I’m sure that, without any inordinate effort, we could each rattle off a handful of names of Christians we know with whom we struggle to engage–or even get along. It comes as no surprise; there are difficult people in the world, so there will be difficult people in the church. You or I might even be on someone else’s list!
So it’s easy to understand why the Apostle Paul used the words he did when describing God and His desire for us to love one another AND get along.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement….” Paul understood that, with some people, it takes some hard-fought perseverance and not a little encouragement to fulfill the call of God on our lives: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
The world often looks at us and sees little, if any, difference between us and them. Sure, we give to worthy causes and serve when disaster strikes; but so does the world. And the world presses for equality between individuals of differing persuasions, while we judge the sin and the sinner! To our shame, the world shows more love and compassion than those of us who have been shown the most love and compassion.
So where does that leave us? How can we turn this thing around?
For starters, we can remember that, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). He didn’t wait until we had our acts together. He didn’t put us on some probationary waiting list for Heaven. He died for us while we wallowed in the stench and filth of our Sin. And… He died for our difficult brothers and sister exactly the same. Ad He welcomes us all.
Think about it. Before we followed Jesus, we had everything in common with the world. We were trapped in the same cesspool of rebellion. James said, “‘For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10 ESV). The smallest of “white” lies sits on even par with the most heinous offense. If the world can demonstrate love and compassion for one another, how much more should we do the same for brothers and sisters in Christ? “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7 ESV).
Once we have Christ’s welcome in mind, we must patiently pursue harmony and unity with each other, even those for whom we have no natural affinity. Especially those for whom we have not natural affinity!
If we can’t love one another, what kind of love could we possibly show the world that would draw them to Christ?
Blessings on your day!