This verse is near the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The fledgling Christian church in Rome at that time was mixed with both Gentiles and Jews but was most likely a majority of Gentiles, according to many Bible study guides. Throughout this letter, Paul reconciles the differences between the Gentiles and the Jews by using basic gospel teachings and Old Testament quotations.
In this reading, Paul is very direct. In the first sentence he says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” This was a lot to ask of Jews and Gentiles who had never really co-existed, let along manage and grow a fledgling and controversial new church. The Jews had been taught for centuries to follow the laws of their forefathers and prophets. The Gentiles were untrusting of Jews. In Chapter 14, he had instructed his readers to stop passing judgment on one another. In this verse, he tells them they must go beyond that and accept each other.
As we all know (probably too well) it is much easier to tolerate someone’s existence than to actually accept them. I am reminded of my book club meeting last night. We were discussing the Civil War, as our book was March, by Geraldine Brooks. Our discussion turned to discrimination. One of our members noted that she simply cannot trust men of Middle Eastern descent. She is actually frightened by them. My guess is that she is not the only person these days with those feelings. We asked ourselves whether or not such feelings were actually any different than those of the slave owners before the Civil War?
We really had no answers, at least no human answers. We have the words of Jesus and we have the words of Paul’s letter to the Romans. If we are to be Christ followers, we cannot judge our brother or sister, no matter who he or she is, what religion they are, what color their skin or how different their clothes. We are required to accept them as our brother and sister in Christ.
As we prepare for the coming of Christ, may we take this lesson to heart.