Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Accept One Another

Romans 15 is the final chapter of instruction in this long letter to Gentile and Jewish Christians scattered around the Imperial City. It is a transition chapter, ending the instruction and then moving into his reason for why he wrote it: a brilliant letter requesting their support for his upcoming mission trip to the Iberian peninsula. You don't see many mission-support letters like Romans anymore! Most of the modern ones stress prayer and finances, and they always piously note how prayer is always more important. It's true, but they can't go without money, so they shouldn't be embarrased to ask about the money. Here's what Paul does: 15 long chapters full of deep and difficult, inspired and intriguing theology - and then at the end: will you please help support my mission trip to Spain?

Paul ends his theological and missional masterpiece with this command: accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

An odd piece of advice: it almost sounds like the tolerance speeches of some today. Except the major difference is Jesus...we accept based on how Jesus accepted...some today only accept just because they don't want anyone to deny them their desires. Big difference. Paul is requesting his fellow followers - people who live in a tension-gripped city of racial strife, gender oppression, disgusting entertainment, gross economic inequalities, brutal warfare - to accept one another just as they are...just as Jesus accepted people right where they were.

Jesus accepted people up in sycamore trees, people about to be stoned, people collecting taxes, people catching fish, people blind by the road, people crippled by the pool, people in the city and the suburbs and the villages. He accepted people. They just couldn't always accept Him. He accepted people, and then he did something to them. What Jesus did with people that He accepted, and who in turn accepted Him, becomes the core of Paul's concluding prayer for his treatise:

May the God of Hope
Fill you will all Joy and Peace
As you Trust in Him,
So that You May Overflow with Hope
By the Power of the Holy Spirit.

This is what makes it a brillian mission letter: Paul remind his readers what kind of Gospel they are not ashamed of...and the Gospel he is preaching. And it is beautiful. Paul is proclaiming the Way of All Joy! the Way of All Peace! the Way of Overflowing Hope! the Way of God in Jesus! the Way of the Potent and Pure Spirit of God! No wonder Paul is eager to get to the desolate Iberian shore...all those people who God wants to fill up with all that is beautiful in Him.

May Paul's prayer become true for you.

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