“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good… for even Christ did not please Himself… therefore accept one another as Christ has accepted you.” (from Romans 15:2-7)
We have been talking about Christian unity – and how essential it is, not only for our relationship with God, but for our effectiveness in completing God’s purposes.
But let’s get right down to it. We DO have real differences. In theology. In how we worship. In how we pray. Even in HOW we receive God’s grace… and salvation.
And because we have such a wide variety of differences… we often do not trust each other. It is human nature to be wary of differences – especially when those differences are in areas related to God… or in their importance to us.
But unity is not pushing aside those differences and pretending they don’t matter.
Because they do.
I will even go so far as to say that God put those differences within us – to give us a broader range of appeal to the various kinds of people in this world.
Think of your favorite foods.
You really like them. You eat them often. You find great comfort and enjoyment in eating them. But did you realize that there are people in this world that probably dislike your favorite foods (maybe even despise them)? And if you were to have one of those folks over for dinner, you would be best-served to find out what their favorite foods were – so you could please them.
You are not wrong in liking what you like… and neither are they. We are all just different… with different likes and dislikes.
We could take the attitude: “Well, what they like is just stupid. And if they’re gonna be that way, I want nothing to do with them!”
And we could likely miss out on a valuable relationship (with someone really special) because of our preferences.
Most of the time, what separates us in not our main doctrines – it is our preferences (our likes and dislikes). Certain preferences make us more comfortable – they are more in line with our style, or with what we like.
Other people feel differently. They have different comforts. Different styles. Different likes.
What do we do about that?
The apostle provides instruction in our verses today. What bonds us all together is not that we have all the same preferences, but that we have love for Jesus… and love for each other. The greater our differences… the greater that love needs to be.
And in Christ, there is no limit to how big love can be.
The context of the apostle’s words come after a lengthy discussion about how to approach real differences in the Body of Christ. Some hold one view. Others have a different view. Some see with a better understanding. Some have a much weaker understanding.
Surprisingly, the apostle’s solution is NOT to get everyone “straightened out” in what they believe. The solution is to… “accept one another” as Christ accepted us.
This must mean that, from God’s perspective, our differences have a purpose. Our differences bring something to the table that we just have trouble seeing.
In many ways God’s people are like the colors in a painting. In the skill of the artist, varieties of colors (and several shades of each color) are used to paint something that captures our attention – that display the mastery of the painter – that communicate feelings and thoughts that could never be expressed by using just ONE color.
If we are willing, God helps us to see from HIS perspective! And when we can begin to see our differences, NOT as points of contention, but as colors and shades on the palette of Our Master – then we can begin to accept that they are not the things that really divide us, but are the things that make HIM more appealing.