We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles;
let all the peoples extol him.”
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”
Societies and their systems tend to encourage people to divide along racial, ethnic, and cultural lines, or else to abandon their distinctives through assimilation. Paul called for a different approach. He didn’t ask the Jews to give up their Jewish heritage and become Gentiles. Nor did he ask the Gentiles to become Jews. Instead, he affirmed the rich ethnic backgrounds of both groups while challenging them to live together in unity (v.7).
This kind of unity is costly, and the attempt to practice it is always under attack. Yet that is the church that God calls us to—a diverse body of people who are unified around our love for Christ. Our backgrounds are God’s gift to each of us and to the church. He has placed us in our families as He has seen fit. We can rejoice in the background He has given us and be enriched by the background He has given others.
One of the things that I have learned over the last forty years is that God has used every success and failure in my life for His glory. I have learned more about God and myself from my failures than I have from my successes. There was a time early in my Christian walk where I often asked God, “Why?” “God, why did you allow this thing to happen in my life?” As I look back now, I realize God has used these experiences to shape me for His purposes. Because of those experiences, He has enabled me to minister to others who are going through the same experiences.
We are all different. That is part of the beauty of the Body of Christ. If the church ever needed unity, it is now! COVID-19, identity politics, and unrest over social injustice have divided our nation and the church. As the Body of Christ, we must get to the place where we can celebrate diversity and show real unity as we lift up the name of Jesus to our nation and to the world!
Questions to Ponder:
How do you view your unique background and upbringing in light of God’s purposes for your life today? What have you learned from others who are different from you? How has God used your past to minister to someone else experiencing the same thing? How does the love of Christ bridge the gap between our differences?
- Thank the Lord for how diverse He is in His own character, nature, and personhood.
- Praise Him for creating all the different ethnic backgrounds (every person made in His image) and thank Him for the one human race with many cultures. Thank Him for all the different giftings, personalities, etc.
- Thank the Lord for those in your midst who are completely different from you. Ask the LORD to bless those you know of who have been singled out in hate crimes or who are frequently oppressed (both in America and around the world).
Papa, I ask that You would give me a heart for the least of these. Give me your heart for those who are different from me in age, race, culture, religion, giftings, etc. I want to love and serve the way You do, and I need Your Dunamis power within me to do so. Remove the blinders in my own eyes. Uproot the anger, selfishness, pride, and laziness that I have. Demolish fear and intimidation, as well as any self-defeating thoughts that I or your people may have. Oh God, help us to encourage one another, lay down our lives for each other, and use the gifts that You have given us to serve and bless one another, as well as those around us. Release Your love in and through all of us. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.