Reading for Monday, Feb. 20: Romans 15
Verse 5 serves as a perfect summary of chapters 14&15: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus…”. Verse 7 fleshes out this “spirit of unity” more clearly: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” As we’ve said a few times in our study, Paul is writing to a church struggling with living together as one body. How do we reconcile our differences as Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians? How do we sort out the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols? What about the group that keeps preaching the necessity of circumcision? These kinds of questions are always brimming below the surface in Paul’s writings. And we could easily substitute our current debatable issues that swirl around in our churches today. But Paul’s teaching to these Roman Christians is the same instruction for our context: As the body of Christ, strive for unity. Follow the example of Jesus, who legitimately accepted us, despite the gulf of difference that separates us from the divine. And allow His command to love others guide you forward as you live out the Gospel together.
I’m writing this week from Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. I’m here visiting some of my best friends, encouraging them in the work they’re doing for the Lord in this place. I’m also working with the local preachers to encourage them in their ministry. Yesterday, I spent some time with a young man, Juan Carlos, a preacher in one of the local villages. Juan Carlos is 24 years old, a young man well versed in Scripture and full of passion for teaching. I watched him share the story of David and Goliath to a group of 25 young children yesterday morning and the children were enrapt, eating from the palm of his hand. It would be easy to look at our differences as insurmountable barriers to communion: we don’t speak the same language; we don’t share the same ethnic or economic background; by all outward appearances, Juan Carlos and I seem to have very little in common. But I count him as my brother in Christ, a fellow laborer in the Lord’s vineyard, and this brings us a unity and a brotherhood that is great enough to trump all our differences. As you strive for unity today with your brothers and sisters, may v13 bless you and serve as your encouragement: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
May we overflow with the hope of Christ today.