Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
This week’s Epistle, from Romans 15:4-13, calls the Romans to receive each other as Christ has received them. In our postmodern West, this sort of call receives praise, especially from theologically progressive people as well as from those who take joy in deriding Christianity. “After all,” they say, “those killjoy Christians think you can reject some people even though Christ welcomes everyone.” This line of reasoning quickly becomes a warrant to reject all calls to repentance and forgiveness, the heart and center of the Christian message. On the contrary, these voices would like us to say that everything is all right and that as long as you are a welcoming person (welcoming according to their definition, which changes frequently), there’s no place for a change in lifestyle, ethics, or beliefs. Everything goes.
The apostle Paul doesn’t fall for that kind of logic, not for a moment. He goes on to describe how Christ has welcomed people. And how is that? By showing God’s truth. By calling people to receive God’s mercy, which specifically implies a condition requiring mercy. By ruling over Jew and Gentile alike, conforming them all into God’s image. Jesus’ welcome is for everyone, yes. But Jesus’ welcome is a transforming kind of welcome. He calls all people, not just some, to repent of their reliance on themselves and their own righteousness, to trust in his mercy, and to believe he is able to deliver them from sin and every evil. God’s welcome redeems people so as to forgive them and change their lives. Our welcome is to be just the same.
What, then, is our prayer during this season of Advent? That we may be God’s instruments to bring the redeeming love of Christ into every situation, calling our world to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. Even so, come quickly, Lord.
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