A bit of historical context will give us a better appreciation for today’s New Testament lesson. Within the ancient church at Rome were converts out of Judaism and paganism. In other words, both Jew and Gentile worshiped together within one church. These two groups of people had very different backgrounds. So, even though they were both believers in Jesus, they had a tendency to look down on one another. Because of this attitude, each group thought that the locus of authority with was with themselves, and not the other. That is, who should call the shots in the church?
This ecclesiastical milieu is why Paul wrote his letter to the Romans; he wanted the entire church to rally and unify around the gospel, not in being Jew or Gentile. Since they were both justified or made right by Jesus, they both needed to live up to true Christian living. So, Paul gave some very pointed encouragement and exhortation of how both groups ought to be treating each other. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore each should love one another with genuine affection. Jew should rejoice with Gentile, and Gentile should weep with Jew. If things get out of hand, blessing ought to be the default response, not cursing. Both Jew and Gentile must be willing to associate with each other, honor one another above themselves, and live peaceably with all. There is to be no favoritism in contributing to the needs of all the saints, whether Jew or Gentile, and in showing hospitality.
As we think about all of these various commands of Scripture together, one of the things we need to hear with great clarity is that the exhortations are to be carried-out without discrimination. Various special interest groups within the church are not to simply lobby for their own needs, wants, and preferences. There is to be a concern for the entirety of God’s people, whether we understand them well, or not. This has profound implications for us, not only within our own local churches, but within the church universal. Thinking deeply about such matters, and translating them into action, is a worthy cause for every believer and church.
Loving God, you came not to only to save me and people like me, but to deliver all kinds of people from the power of sin. Enable me to be genuine in my love for all people, no matter from what background. May love be the glue that holds all believers in Jesus together. Amen.