Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Receiving Others

One stands at the door and knocks. What shall we do?
Romans 15:7 "...receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God."
I stand at the door and knock. What will you do? What would Jesus do?

I do some things for which I am ashamed. You do too! If you have put those things out of mind, you are in denial. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). I know what you're thinking: your sins are greater than mine. Actually, my sins may be greater! The forces of evil use my sins as a way to rationalize your own. I do that too. No one is immune! I even use the apostle Paul's struggle with his flesh to rationalize my own struggle.

Some hold things which I have done against me. God has forgotten what I have done:
Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins."
God has the capacity to forget sins because He is God and is all powerful. Even though he is all-knowing, He can elect not to know!  We are neither omnipotent nor omniscient, but we too can choose to forget. We do that by not dwelling on the sins of others, focusing instead on our relationship with God. We put the past out of mind. If we truly forgive, just as God does, we also choose to forget. There is never ever an excuse for not loving those we are commanded to love! Some didn't forget, and never will forget what you have done; that is unloving. You are in effect saying: my god, myself, is too great to serve you. By not serving me, unfortunately, you are not serving God either.

I knock at your door. What shall you do? Some hide as if they're not home. Others stand by the window and sneer. Others hide in fear. Others delight in their hatred. How do you respond to my knock? How do you respond when others of my kind knock?

We are to receive one another. Paul reminded the Romans that they must do that. Why so? Because that is what Jesus does. Jesus receives me - sinner Larry but some of you may not. Jesus receives sinner you, and I will too. Scripture is all about loving the sinner but not the sin. That is a fair summary of what Holy Scripture is all about! Without regard to what the sin is, we must receive the sinner. Jesus does that!

When I was young, I wanted to be saved. However, I was too much of a sinner for God to have mercy upon, or so I thought. I believed that since I was so wicked that Jesus would not accept me. To be acceptable to him, I made a new command for me: I must be good for a month or so for Jesus to receive me. I always failed. Being good to become worthy is not the way for Jesus to receive us. "He so loved the world" means he receives me "just as I am". He doesn't wait for people to change to receive them; he changes them after they are received!

Of course, our many little gods are more critical of others than is Jesus. Those who claim to be good Christians refuse to receive one another. I am a Christian, yet some other Christians even fail to receive me. It may be my attitude, my sins, my looks, my education or lack thereof, my wealth or poverty, or just because I am me. Some are overt in rejecting me while others do it covertly. Those who do it either way fail to do what Jesus does - receive us just as we are!

Have you ever been to a church where other Christians despise you? I have. To be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, is when God's people are of one accord. We must love and receive one another. I had one church where a Christian overtly made it clear that he despised me. He received me not - even shunned me. How Christian is that?  It does happen, and yet we wonder why sinners don't want to come to church.

We can't always change churches to avoid hard-hearted Christians. I've tried that. Jesus wants us to reconcile regardless to whom the fault lies. (Matthew 5:24). I had two people who hated me. One told me so, and the other one made it clear by shunning me. I was miserable. One told me I was hated because I'm me. I suppose that is rational -  maybe not!

I went to each one, and accepted their hatred. I apologized, basically, for being me. Much to my surprise these sinners received me just as Jesus would. We became friends, and one became my ally. I was blessed much more than I deserved! Those two sinners who did not follow Jesus, did what Jesus would do. Yet those who follow Jesus, well, won't follow Jesus. They do what they want to do.

What is it that people want to do? What is it evil forces draw Christians to do? They reject one another much to Jesus's chagrin, and to their own travail. Why do I say that? Because when Christians reject one another, it is done with much effort because they are going against God! Sinning, for a Christian, is hard work or else they must not be Christians. Going against God is the path of most resistance. Christians make much effort to do what sinners do easily.

My point is that true Christians put in much effort to reject others. If they are Christians, they must feel guilty about who they are - un-Christlike, or different than the one they claim to follow and worship.

Receiving one another is being a friend. Friendship is mutual affection. We must love one another, and if we don't receive one another, there is no love nor friendship. What is the absence of love? Hatred! Scripture tells us that hatred is murder (1 John 3:15). If you do not receive a person, then you murder them, not them physically, but their spirit!

I have been killed many times over. You have as well. When we are not received by another person, then our spirit has been knouted. We are still alive but to those who don't receive us, we are dead.

What is it, that we must do to be as Christ? We are to love one another. We are to receive them as friends. That's how we show Jesus our love - by receiving others.

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