"We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 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 15:1-7
I’m a little awestruck at how gently the Lord reminds me that this life is just not about me. How often I get wrapped up in my ideas, desires, needs and wants. Trust me, I can sugarcoat my selfishness too. I’ve learned that my husband and children provide a perfect cover for feeding my own appetite. Sadly, I must confess, I’ve even used scripture to defend my righteous attitudes and holier-than-thou smirk during discussions with those “who just don’t understand.” Not a pretty sight.
Thank you Lord for your sweet discipline that calls me to repent of my own self-involvement. When I stop to really reflect on my life, to peel back the layers of my heart’s desires, I’m really grossed out and thankful for the Spirit’s conviction. I can honestly say I have failed – time and time again – to NOT bear with; to NOT please my neighbor over myself; to NOT build up others; to NOT live in harmony; to NOT welcome as Christ welcomed me.
God forgive me of my iniquities.
The glorious, unbelievable, magnificent, hard-to-wrap-my-mind-around good news is, He has forgiven me.
Roman 5:6-8 says “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The truth of God’s eternal love and sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross encourages me NOT to wallow in my own guilt and shame of sin, but instead prayerfully beg the Lord to change my heart and desire Him and His ways more each day. I desperately want to walk out the harmony of hope in my daily life, but have lived long enough to know that I cannot without the Holy Spirit leading the way.
The inability to walk in harmony without daily surrender to the Holy Spirit is nothing new. In Matthew 20, Jesus shares a parable about laborers in the vineyard. In the parable the vineyard owner asks “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity’?” Then Jesus summarizes the story with “So the last will be first, and the first last.”
After the parable, Matthew records that Jesus predicted His death for the third time. Presumably after hearing the parable, and hearing Jesus predict His own death, the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached the Lord with a rather bold request.
“Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” – Matthew 20:21
The ten other disciples overheard the mother’s request. The scriptures say they were “indignant at the two brothers.”
Wow. That dust-up happened quick. One mother’s well-meaning, yet misguided request caused men to look at each other with a “indignant” spirit instead of in brotherly love. That scene, though not exact but in theory, has played out so often in my life. That’s why I’m so grateful for how Jesus sweetly reminds the disciples that they are called to walk in harmony, serving each other generously.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25.
Jesus levels the playing field. He calls His followers to serve one another in humility. The Lord Himself came to serve so that we might – through and because of Him – live with freedom to die to self just as He did on the cross. We can’t do that perfectly. Like the aforementioned mothers (myself included), our hearts are not always aligned with God’s will. But we can repent, ask the Holy Spirit to move, seek to serve others, build one another up, and share the Savior with the stranger with a united voice.
Gospel Hospitality means that we – you and me – have eyes to see the stranger as equals, and fight like crazy to create a space for them to feel protected, provided for and taken care of, while walking with them on their path to prayerfully meeting Jesus. We – the believers – die to self for the sake of our neighbor. We lock arms in the harmony of hope so “that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Because it’s not about me. It’s not about you. This life we live was bought and paid for by Christ. We are no longer a slave to sin, but a slave to righteousness.
To lead others to Christ. To welcome the ungodly to the one God who loved them first.
So united, with one voice, in the harmony of hope we can “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.