Summary: Rom. 15:7-17 shows us several actions that are appropriate and should be expected from the people of God. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is accept one another and overlook perceived faults.
The Spirituality of Mutuality
Intro: Mutuality speaks of a reciprocal relationship between two or more people. It speaks of shared interests, values, and common goals. It involves give and take, and indicates a potentially close bond between the people involved. One major asset that is common among those who have put their faith in Jesus is their identity. While we retain our individuality with the imprint of God in us, we also identify with the Church, made up of Christ followers.
-Now, I may be splitting semantic hairs here, but I believe there is a difference between who we are and what we do. They are related, but in my estimation, being typically precedes doing. In other words, what we do should flow out of who we are. That is why it is so important for us to know who we are in Christ – to know who He has designed us to be. Once we realize who we are and embrace that identity, then the behavior should flow out of that identity. If we repeatedly do things that are contrary to who we are (or out of character with who we are), then our life can get out of balance and our behavior can deeply impact our sense of identity. Because of this, there are many Christians who are having an identity crisis. They aren’t really sure that justification applies to them because they base their identity on their mistakes and failures instead of on the finished work of Jesus. Folks, if you have put your faith in Jesus for your forgiveness, and are trusting in Him, then your identity has been established: you are a child of God because you are known and loved by God. When God the Father looks at you, He sees Jesus in you and the righteousness of Jesus all over you. You are accepted and loved by God.
-Now, as a result of our new identity, our behavior and lifestyle should become consistent with who we are in Christ, or consistent with who Christ is in us. Jesus would not lie, steal, or take advantage of another person. He would not condemn or despise other family members, as some of the Roman Christians were apparently doing. So because of who we are and who lives in us, God helps us change our behavior/actions to ones that honor Him.
-Collectively, I believe this applies to the church as well. Our identity reveals that we are the people of God, called by God to know Him, honor Him, and represent who He is to a lost world. If we will be the church (aka the Bride of Christ), then we will live like the pure Bride we are! But if our identity hasn’t really changed, then we might just find ourselves doing church (showing up, putting in our time, singing the songs, maybe contributing something here and there, waiting to be ministered to), but never really becoming who God designed us to be.
-So, even though it is not the main point of the sermon today, let me just say that it is of utmost importance for us to realize who we are in Christ as individuals and as mutual family members together, representing Jesus. As we take on our new identity in Christ, that affects not only our relationship with God, but with one another. Gaining new identity in Christ implies that new actions will follow that are in keeping with who you are. This section of Scripture in Rom. 15:7-17 shows us several actions that are appropriate and should be expected from the people of God. Let’s look at them.
1. Accept one another (7)
Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
-There is a story about a young couple that had just moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the wash outside (back when people still did this). “That laundry is not very clean,” she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, she would make the same disparaging comments. About one month later, the woman was surprised to see some lily white laundry on the line and said to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her how to do it?” To which the husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.” (Brian Bill, sermoncentral.com)
-How are you doing at making room for people? What if they do not fit your idea of what a Christian family member should look like or act like? It could be that you are not seeing through a clean window and it makes you think that everyone around you has a problem. How do we respond when someone does not seem to accept us? Do we think that lets us off the hook so we don’t have to accept them? Do we base our acceptance of them on their treatment of us? Do we get angry if someone does not accept us and check out of the game? Spiritual pride can sneak in so easily, blinding us to our own weaknesses, but highlighting the perceived failures of others.