Christ is our model of what Christian Acceptance means
Romans 15:1-7 (Pastor Heo)
15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Chp 14:1 “Accept him whose faith is weak without passing judgment.”
The Roman church at that time was a hybrid community:
- Jews + Gentiles,
- free + slave,
- conservative + liberal,
- rich + poor,
- strong + weak
So, at that time, in the church, it was very difficult to accept one another. But we must remember, mutual acceptance in church is not optional but necessary because we are the body of Christ. Acceptance means taking people into our homes and hearts. We must avoid racism, discrimination, favoritism, differences. We must seek common ground for fellowship and relationship.
Are you strong or weak? Do you want to be stronger or remain weak?
In every area of this world, there are the strong and the weak: physically, financially, mentally, spiritually, socially, etc.
- Strong believers = understand their freedom in Christ and are sensitive to the differences of others.
- Strong believers can function in a variety of circumstances and be an influence for good.
- Weak believers = not yet mature in faith so as to be free from some rituals or traditions.
- Weak believers find that they need to stay far away from some situations in order to maintain a clear conscience.
But we must remember that the Word of God and the message of salvation is unchangeable. But human habits and traditions and cultures and thinking are very changeable. So, we must be clear in this matter:
- Fixable to Christ
- Flexible to culture
- Faithful to the Word of God
- Flexible to the world
For me, when I went to the Philippines and Tanzania, I had to learn all about their language, history, culture, lifestyle, etc. I must become one of them, be identified with them. But at the same time, I must keep my own identity as a child of God and Christian missionary.
Identification without loss of identity is called contextualization.
Paul confessed as a missionary: “I’m free. I belong to nobody, but I make myself a slave to all men. To the Jews, I became like a Jew to win the Jews. To those under the Law, I became like a man under the Law though I’m not under the Law, to win them to Christ. To those without the Law, I became like one without the Law, though I myself am not, in order to save some. I became all things to all men so that I might save some of them.”
This was Paul’s identification.
1 Cor 2:2 “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
This is Paul’s identity.
Identification and Identity go together.
In this life, Jesus was the most powerful person who ever lived, but he did not please himself (v. 3). He did the Father’s will. Finally, death on the cross was not the path he would have chosen to please himself, but he chose to please God in heaven.
Acceptance is not independence from God, but total dependence on God – esp. power / strength in church does not come from independence, but from mutual dependencies.
“Christ is our model for what Christian acceptance means.”
“Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus because to this you were called. Jesus Christ left us an example.”
- Jesus (in heaven) came down to the lowest place – to raise us from the dead and put us into heaven.
- Jesus (very rich) became poor and naked to make us rich (heirs of the kingdom of heaven).
- Jesus (the strongest) became weak to make us strong.
Today, according to v. 7, “Accept one another”
“3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Verse 7 means:
When (if) we realize truly that God accepted us as unlovely, wicked, sinful, immature when we came to him, THEN we can be able to accept our brothers and sisters (esp our weak brothers and sisters).
Let me share Jesus’ character as a human being.
We know Jesus is fully God and fully man (not half).
During his stay for 33 years on this earth, how was his character, esp. in accepting others from his deep heart. Let me share 5 characteristics of Jesus as fully man.
1 Peter 2:21 “To this you were called because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.”
5 Characteristics of Jesus as a Man
#1 Absolute Holiness
Jesus lived a holy life – he was absolutely separated from all sins. He was separated in his mind and conduct – he was sinless – totally and completely.
So the Bible challenges us to “be holy as Christ is holy” in all that you do. Can you do this?
We can – as long as we belong to Christ.
No matter how far we may fall from being like Christ, we have no lower standard that the perfection of Christ.
Christ is our model and example of sinless perfection. This is nothing short of absolute perfection. He has shown how to be holy.
This means, the holier we are, the further from sin we are.
Holiness is power. Holiness is strength. Fighting against sin is our power / strength.
#2 Genuine Love (agape)
Unlimited, divine, unending, agape love – Jesus loved all human beings – even his enemies. Jesus loved his own to the last – even his betrayer, even the ones who spit on his face. Can you follow his example? No. But, Jesus IN YOU can do that.
So, we must remember that Jesus is always IN US. I cannot do that, but Jesus IN ME can do that.
Jesus loved those his beat him, persecuted him, nailed him on the cross. That’s why the Bible challenges us to imagine “how wide, how far, how long, how deep is the love of Christ. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall famine or sword or hardship? No, nothing. I’m convinced neither death nor life, angels nor demons, nor any power, height nor depth will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.”
And then Jesus challenges us: “A new command I give you. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this they will know you are my disciples: if you love one another.”
Love is power. Love is my strength.
#3 True Humility
He became willingly humiliated by his own accord.
Phil 2:5 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who being the very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being found in human likeness. He humbled (emptied himself) and became obedient to death, even death on the cross.”
His life – 33 years on earth – can be summarized as a life of humility (being humble).
- He was born in a stable, an animal’s food box
- During his ministry, he had no house – no place to rest his head
- He associated with the lowly, called the “Friend of Sinners” and tax collectors and prostitutes
- Most of his followers were of lowly origin, but he revealed the secret mystery of the kingdom of heaven to them
- He was crucified on a cross
- He was buried in a borrowed tomb
Jesus says, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom.”
Service is power. Service is strength.
- This world says “Power is the ability to rule over others under them.”
- But in church, “Power is the ability to build others up under them.”
- Service is power. If you are strong spiritually, you are here to serve. If you are not strong, you cannot serve.
- Service is power.
#4 Meek and Gentle
Meekness sometimes looks like weakness outwardly.
Jesus says in Matt 11:28-29 “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden. Take my yoke upon you and learn from you and you will find rest for your souls. I am gentle and humble, my burden is light.”
He did not fight, quarrel, even cry out for his own benefit. “Nobody heard his voice on the streets.” Even a smoldering reed he did not put out.
- He was very meek in dealing with Judas Iscariot – he knew, but was meek.
- He was meek in dealing with Thomas who doubted his resurrection.
- He was meek in restoring and reinstating Peter who denied him 3 times.
- He was meek before his crucifiers.
“Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.”
We can get lessons from the animal world.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” This is true in the spiritual world and the physical world and the animal world.
Consider the lion, tiger, and bear. They lost their land, their earth. Many of them are put in prison (zoos). But see the meekest animals, hens, sheep, goats, ducks. They are very meek, but they can be seen all over the earth.
This principle can be applied in our Christian life.
If you are too strong – so strong in your own position in non-essential areas, then the room for your welcome will become smaller and smaller, narrower and narrower.
Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This is a true mystery.
- Meekness is power.
- Weakness is power.
- Weakness can be strength.
#5 Perfect Balance
Especially in his emotions.
- He was very grave (sad) without being gloomy.
- He was very joyful, but not vigorously.
- He took earthly life very seriously.
Isa 53 “Jesus Christ was despised, rejected by men, he was a Man of Sorrows. He wept over Jerusalem.” Do you weep over Jeonju, Korea, the world?
Jesus wept over Jerusalem, over the death of his friend Lazarus.
Jesus sorrowed over those who willingly rejected his free salvation. He bore our griefs and sorrows. But at the same time, he was a man of joy.
John “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and so that your joy may be complete. I have said these things while you are in this world so that you may have the full measure of my joy.”
He was a Man of Sorrow and a Man of Joy.
His Joy was largely anticipation (seeing the large multitude of the church worshiping him in glory)
Paul also was a strong man. Even in prison he was filled with joy, “Rejoice! I will say it again, rejoice!”
Are you joyful? Yes!
Paul suffered so so much because of Christ, but he was full of joy. Yet, at the same time, he was filled with sorrow, “I have unceasing grief in my heart for the sake of my brothers.”
What does this mean?
- When we see Christ, we are filled with joy.
- When we see Christ in us, we are filled with joy.
- When we see the lost, we are filled with grief.
May God bless us to be strong Christians.
Let us take some time to follow and imitate the characteristics of Christ:
- Meekness / Gentleness