Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has
welcomed you, for the glory of God.
The above words from Paul are written
specifically to Roman Christians. The Roman
church was a mix of Jews and Gentiles, and,
because of their vastly different religious pasts,
they were finding it difficult to get along with one
another. Some context is necessary: a few years
before Paul writes the letter to the Romans, the
emperor Claudius issues an edict that expels the
Jews from Rome (this was not the first time that
such an edict had been issued, by the way). By
the time Paul writes the letter, however, the edict
is no longer in force, so the Jews trickle back into
Rome. Imagine for a moment what it must have
been like: a mixed church—that already was
navigating the challenging waters of inter-ethnic
religious and cultural backgrounds—all of a
sudden becomes a Gentile-only church, and it
remains that way for several years. Then, the
Jews are able to return, and they begin to
repopulate the church in Rome. How might things
have changed while the Jews were gone? I do not
think it difficult to envision how problematic this
circumstance must have been. For the most part,
Jews and Gentiles did not get along. There were
many social and religious hurdles for each group
to clear. They were struggling to even accept one
another. Thus it is that the apostle urges them to
remember that Christ died for all of them, and that
that knowledge should be what shapes their
attitudes and their responses to one another. He
admonishes them to set aside religious and social
arrogance because of the truth of the cross of
Christ. He encourages these ancient brothers and
sisters to “walk in love” in order that they may
reflect the great gifts of grace and salvation that
they have received—gifts that none of them has

It is these same gifts that we have
received in our lives as followers of Christ.
We understand, at least on some level,
that our salvation by grace was granted us
“not because of works done by us in
righteousness” (Titus 3:5), but because
God is so incredibly good. In other words,
as we have all heard said many times
before, God did not save us because we
are so good, but because he is so good.
As Paul clearly articulates above to Titus,
our rescue comes from the grace of God,
not as a result of anything inherent in us. In
this, God’s primary concern is the
righteousness and holiness of his people.
In order to grant to us his holiness, God
has gone to immeasurable lengths so that
we might be restore
d to him. This truly is
an “inexpressible gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Because we know what God has done,
we imitate him and express grace to
others, whoever they may be. We act in
love and benevolence, no matter what
another believes or does. This is not to say
that we are to condone godlessness, but it
is a call to us to walk in kindness and
mercy as we relate to one another and to
people outside the faith.
It behooves us to always remember
that without God we are nothing. Without
him we have no hope and no future. With
him, however, we have everything,
including the power of the Spirit to live as
Christ lived, regardless of circumstances.
And we never forget that this is only
possible because of what God has done
for us in Jesus Christ.

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