“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 (NIV)
The challenges we face as a nation for racial reconciliation are huge but not insurmountable or unique to our generation. The early church faced the same challenges as the Gospel expanded beyond Jerusalem to the Roman Empire. Soon the church that began in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost was reaching Samaritans and Gentiles. That sounds great, but what began as a primarily Jewish congregation, now was becoming more diversified. It created all kinds of issues between races of people. Jewish heritage considered non-Jews as outside the “elect” of God’s favor. So it was difficult for them to accept one another. By the time Paul wrote the letter of Romans to the church in Rome, it was already established as a diverse community of Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free people, men and women, wealthy and poor, mature and young in the faith, even former prisoners and prominent citizens. The church’s base was a broad mixture of cultures and socio-economic levels. It was truly a cosmopolitan community of faith with the potential for both great influence and great conflict.
Little wonder then that Paul closes his letter to the church in Rome with this admonition in Romans 15:5-9a (NLT), “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises He made to their ancestors. He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for His mercies to them. …”
Verse seven really jumps off the page to me. I believe it is the key to racial reconciliation and harmony. “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Our acceptance of one another is qualified on the basis of how Christ accepted us. That acceptance is the basis of our unity in Christ. Do you accept others like that? What does it mean to accept others as Christ accepted us? I like the way the Life Application Bible explains it: “Accepting means taking people into our homes as well as into our hearts, sharing meals and activities, and avoiding racial and economic discrimination. We must go out of our way to avoid favoritism. Consciously spend time greeting those you don’t normally talk to, minimize differences and seek common ground for fellowship.” Review that description again. It takes intentional effort doesn’t it. But the Bible says that kind of acceptance brings glory to God.
One of the challenges we face is confusing acceptance with approval. God doesn’t approve of our sin, but that didn’t keep Him from accepting us in Christ. When we turned to God from our sin, Jesus accepted us. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval of sin or sinful lifestyles. It means we look beyond the fault and see the need. We forgive and release the offense accepting one another in Christ just as He accepted us. This frees us to love one another.
Take a moment in prayer today and ask God to help you accept others as He accepts you. Look for intentional ways to demonstrate that acceptance to others who are different than you.