Read: Romans 15:7-13
When I stepped onto Moody Bible Institute’s campus my first semester, I was searching for a place to belong. Having done comedy improv in high school, I decided to audition for Moody’s improv team in hopes of finding my niche. By the grace of God, I made the team, and it has become one of my sweetest blessings.
One of the things I remember most from the very first night with the improv team was the welcoming embrace from this group of strangers. As I sunk uncomfortably into their fold, someone said, “You have no idea the vat of love you just walked into.” And they were right: I really didn’t have the slightest hint of the radical Christian love I would experience from this improv team.
Isn’t this what Christ has done for us, too? There we were, walking around as unworthy sinners in our facade of self-reliance and brittle strength, drowning ourselves in our earthly sorrows. And, by no goodness of our own, Christ welcomed us into His family. This passage of Romans speaks to this wonderful gift of acceptance.
During the time of the book of Romans, there was a stark cultural and religious contrast between the Jews and Gentiles. What Paul was trying to end was the division between them. He wanted both Jews and Gentiles to recognize their unity in Christ and receive one another in grace, as Christ would.
Today, in our modern circle of influence and even within the church, we are great about pointing out our differences, dividing each other up as thoroughly as we can. These words are an important reminder that the body of Christ is meant for all. Despite any human differences that separate us, the Lord desires to welcome us into His family. And so, we are instructed here to welcome others, following Christ’s example.
In the passage, Paul brings up that one way to come together is through worshipping God. He wanted the Jews to realize that the Gentiles were becoming a part of the family in Christ. Romans 15:10-11 says, “‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.’ And again,’Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol Him.’” God was calling them to come together and live in peace, just as He calls us to do the same. We can do this by showing love to one another.
My college improv team was, by no means, a perfect representation of love, but they have been some of the best human reflections of the love of Christ that I’ve ever experienced. How much richer, still, is God’s affection for us than any earthly affection! In Romans 15, we clearly see the depth of Jesus’ acceptance of us. Paul tells us in Romans 15:8 that, in Christ’s welcoming of us, he “became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness….”
Truly, the best way to welcome someone into the family of God is to serve them, as Christ has served us. As sinners, we do not belong in the family of God, and yet, over and over again, as Paul points out in Romans 15:8-9, Christ has served us and confirmed His promises so that we might glorify God for His mercy. And that is why we welcome each other as Christ has welcomed us, so that God might be glorified and extolled in all things.
Do you feel welcomed by God, or do you wonder if He has begrudgingly let you into His family? After reveling in the acceptance you have in Christ, have you extended this welcoming embrace to others? This week, take time to rest and reflect on the exuberant love that Christ has extended to you.