December 10, 2016 – United in Christ
“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
– Romans 15:5-7
Contrary to what many people seem to believe, Paul’s letter to the Romans is not a systematic theology. If you read closely, you’ll realize that Paul is dealing from the beginning to the end with the issue of Jewish and Gentile Christians getting along inside the church.
In the first century, Jews and Gentiles didn’t even eat together. So when God began the work of building a people which included both Jew and Gentile, problems were bound to arise. And they did. The first half of the book of Acts is the story of different kinds of people trying to get along. It’s not too different from the way things are today.
Since we’re human beings, we tend to like being around people who are like us. We prefer those who speak our language, have our culture, and share our ideologies. So when people who are so different come together and are expected to be a family, problems are bound to arise. And they do. But there is something greater than our differences.
You see, as Christians, we aren’t united based on our common language or culture. We aren’t united through our common political or economic ideologies. We aren’t even united by our love for certain hymns or potlucks. The thing that unites us – the thing that gives us the same mind – is common worship of a common Lord, Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul, when writing to a church that’s largely Gentile but which has a Jewish minority, says, “Be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.” We don’t have to think the same way on a lot of issues to be part of the family of God. But our minds should be being conformed to the mind of Christ. We should become more and more like him. We should grow in the fruit of the Spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23). These are the things that we have in common – a common Spirit transforming us into the common image of our common Lord.
And as our minds become more like his, we will be able to worship God together – in spite of our differences. That’s why Paul goes on to write, “So that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Holiness unites. Worship unites.
So don’t look to be united on any other basis. It will fail every time.