Paul wrote the words, “Therefore, accept each other,” in Romans 15. He was in the midst of helping Jewish Christians accept Gentile Christians. This was a new thing, in many ways. Gentiles were not part of the Jewish faith. In the New Testament, a new way was taught where Gentiles were just as acceptable in God’s sight as His chosen people, the Jews. If you read all of Romans, you can see Paul’s justification for this from all over the Bible. He shares technical grounds and some very practical implications.
Just as a large division threatened to tear apart the community of Christ-followers in Paul’s day, a giant rift exists today between those who hold two different political belief systems in America. Both sides have very strong reasons for believing the way they have chosen. But both can be very negative in their attacks on the other side. And the closer we get to the major election in November, the louder the verbal fighting seems to be.
Paul shares another way: “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.” He prays for God to bring complete harmony. Just as Paul did, we can pray for that harmony.
Notice that living out that kind of harmony requires patience. Another translation of that verse reads, “endurance.” It is not easy to live in harmony with people who are very different from us. They can really drive us crazy. A community of Christ-followers living in acceptance of each other can be a truly beautiful thing. Paul shares the ultimate aim of this harmony: “Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Paul Merrill writes here every First Friday.)