Summary: Accepting others made in God’s image and redeemed by Christ’s death is an essential consequence of our being accepted by Christ.
Accept One Another Romans 15__4-13 Advent2
Invocation: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In verse Romans 15, verse 7 St. Paul wrote:
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you."
These words, "accept one another" are exactly the words we need to hear. We need to hear these because we all come short of knowing how to accept the people God made in his own image.
Thankfully, we all know the acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ. In these words from St. Paul we are assured, beyond any doubt, of Christ’s loving acceptance when he tells us to "accept one another just as Christ accepted you."
There is no question that Christ accepts each and every one of us, not because of who we are, but because of who he has made us to be in Holy Baptism: his holy people. There is no doubt that Christ has worked heavenly acceptance for us by shedding his blood on our behalf on the cross of Calvary. There is no doubt, that he has washed us in his blood and claimed us as his own in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Knowing we have been accepted in love and grace by our Lord Jesus Christ, today we are faced with the challenge of accepting one another.
Paul said, "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you." Accept one another. He doesn’t ask us to change each other. God doesn’t ask us to ignore each other. There is no heavenly call to avoid one another or divide ourselves up into cliques or groups or factions. Certainly, God does not call on us to betray, belittle, and slander one another, and thereby reveal our hatred or distaste for other people of God.
And yet we do all these things. We break every law in the second table of the the ten commandments and we do not love one another as we love ourselves. How serious is this sin?
At this time, unlike the middle of the 19th century there is no large scale conflict among Americans. North and south no longer engage in a civil war. We know, after another year of banal war of words between the political parties, there will be relative peace even in the political arena.
Lucky for us since we are a small communion, the Baptists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox are not beating down our doors or threatening us with guns. And for that we can all be thankful.
But there are divisions among Christians and they are serious even if there is no blood letting.
Someone looks a little different, or sounds different, and we just don’t talk to them. Someone makes you uncomfortable because you’ve had a confrontation with them in the past, well, we won’t be sitting on the same side of church they sit on, or sitting in the same church.
As you look through church ads, nearly every church trumpets the idea that they are "friendly" and describe themselves as a family. The Christian family, if a family at all, is dysfunctional. I can remember a decade or two when I thought it possible there would be reunion among Christians. Now I’m nearly in despair at my efforts to bring people in the Anglican tradition together.
The basic definition of sin is separation: separation from God and from the neighbor created in God’s image.
This sin, if left unchecked and unrepented, will lead us all to estrangement from God. That’s how serious this sin is. Every day the media news gives us graphic lessons in how separation, rejection, suspicion hatred erupts into open warfare and destruction. We feel smug when we see those things and think, "Thank God we are not like the Iraquis or the Afghanis. Thank God we are not like the Muslim partisans."
Yet, we don’t take baptism seriously. We congratulate ourselves for being baptized, think ourselves to be enlightened and charitable, but give scant credence to the baptism of others.
Every church suffers from this malady. It’s the same throughout all Christendom; we are a divided family, a divided congregation. We are a church divided by sin.
These sinful divisions keep us from accepting one another, and that’s exactly the way the devil wants it. He thinks, "If I can just get them to divide up into groups, my job is done. If I can tear them apart from one another, eventually they will bicker and fight and in the end they’ll devour themselves."
Unfortunately, this is how it has always been. That is why we have progressed from a simple baptismal creed that said, "Jesus Christ is the Son of God" to the dozens of long creeds and confessions the various factions in christendom have manufactured.