Summary: God expects his people to welcome both the weak in faith and the strong.
One of my fond childhood experiences is that of watching my mother work in the kitchen preparing to bake cookies, cakes, or cinnamon rolls. With her apron on she would take the ingredients and mix them, sometimes with my help, and then put them into a pan or on a cookie sheet and put them into the oven for the right amount of time and when they were ready, she would take them out and put the finishing touches on them. She always knew what to do in the kitchen. Just last month, when Sue and I visited my parents, my mother insisted on preparing lunch for us rather than going to a restaurant. For dessert she had baked a rhubarb pie, still warm from the oven. And when we left she packed some food for us, including homemade molasses cookies. If you asked her, she could tell you what goes into her favorite recipes. And, if you asked her about a recipe for family living, I’m sure she could give some good advice. So today I’m grateful that God gave me a godly mother and I try to honor her in any way I can.
Stephen Covey has written “7 Habits of Highly Successful Families” in which he describes the ingredients that create strong families. One principle he suggests is to begin with the end in mind. What he means is that you should ask yourself what kind of family you really want to be and then work toward that vision of your family. Another habit is Seek first to understand . . . then to be understood. Listen to the thoughts and feelings of others, then try to communicate your own thoughts and feelings. A third one is Synergizing. This is about two or more people working together to produce more than they could produce separately by building a mutual problem-solving atmosphere based on loving, learning and cooperation.
There is no doubt in my mind that learning to live together as a family is one of the most important assignments God has given us on this earth. Family relationships provide the foundation for the way we relate to other people in school, at work, and in our neighborhood. And mothers, whom we honor today, have a significant responsibility in helping families become what they should be.
The scripture we read a moment ago lists seven habits that apply to God’s family. In our study last Wednesday evening, we learned that the entire Bible is the story of God building a family who will love him, honor him, and reign with him forever and that our spiritual family is even more important than our physical family because it will last forever. (Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Life)
As a congregation, we experience no greater joy than that of welcoming new members into the church family. We make special preparations for this event. The stage has been cleared. The curtains are open. A reception table is ready where we will celebrate in a modest way after the worship service. Welcoming new family members is a great experience, but it carries with it a great responsibility –not only to God but to each other. So today let’s look at these 7 habits in Romans 15 that will make our spiritual family what it should be.
In case you have not been following our sermons from Romans, you need to know that Paul wrote this letter to Christians in Rome so they would have a better understanding of the gospel he preached and the kind of life they should live. Paul had never been to Rome but he knew quite a bit about the Christians who lived there. If you read chapter 16, you see that he knew many of their names. Evidently they were scattered about the city in small congregations, meeting in each others’ homes. And here in chapter 15 he describes the habits that members of the family of God should develop.
The first habit is that of consideration for each other. (1,2). In any congregation, you have a mix of people, some who have been here for a long time, some for a short time. And what some people call long may be short for others. I still recall my surprise when I was interviewing some people in another congregation and they said, “Of course, we haven’t been here very long. We have only been here 30 years.” That makes Sue and me young upstarts, because we have only been here 20!
When Paul wrote to the churches in Rome, the question was not how long people had been there, but how they applied their faith to their situation. If you read Chapter 14, you see that the biggie had to do with whether or not to eat meat. This had nothing to do with eating at the most popular steakhouse in town. But it did have something to do with the pagan religion some of them had come from. In that religion, worshipers offered meat to idols. Some of it the priests ate. Some of it found its way to the meat market. So, new Christians, who gave up offering meat to idols, found themselves facing a dilemma. What if the meat they bought at the market had been offered to idols? They were serving Christ now, not those idols, so they thought it was wrong to eat that meat. And since there was no way of knowing which meat was which, they decided not to eat meat at all.