Week 5 • Gatwiri Mwenda
There are numerous definitions of the word accept. However, there is one that resonates with me regarding this passage. According to Miriam-Webster’s third definition, the word accept means ‘to recognize as true: believe’. When Paul was writing this letter, he was writing in a slightly different context than we are reading it. In his book The Message of Romans, John Stott illustrates that Paul is writing to Jews and Gentiles that are on different ends of a religious spectrum, with different practices that each deem their own as right and the others’ as wrong. He is casting a vision of how Christians might live together.
Most of us approaching this text are from the same religious background. Where we differ however is our cultural, educational, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds. It is easy enough to accept that different denominations and people groups are all Christians. Yet, we tend to look superficially; Catholics, Baptists, Christian reformed we are all Christians, we acknowledge that (sometimes). The acceptance that Paul is alluding to goes a bit deeper and is a bit tougher. The difficulty lies in the recognition that Christians who might have very different political, theological and social convictions are valid members of God’s kingdom. That bisexual preacher is just as valid as their heterosexual colleague. God is our ultimate and judge and we must continually look to the one who sits on the throne for guidance. It is our job to love and see and recognize one another as carefully crafted individuals put on this earth to praise God with a unified voice.
When political and ecclesiastical division is at the forefront of most of our minds, it is difficult to see those we disagree with as equals in the eyes of God. Some words by Joe M. Kapolyo struck me when I was looking for inspiration on this topic. In his book The Human Condition he writes, “Ubuntu or ubuntunse is a Bantu ontological noun describing what it means to be a member of humankind…ubuntu indicates the presence in one’s life of such human characteristics as kindness, charity and love of one’s neighbor…. describes humans as created by God.” We are called to look beyond the superficial identities and recognize each other as deserving of love and respect as citizens of God’s Kingdom. It is easy enough for me to put that to paper and for you to read it, yet these words mean nothing if we are unable to live them out. We should look to Christ for guidance; however, it is on us to take that first step.
God almighty, we lift to you the pain we carry, and we seek your guidance as we work to love despite it. When all around us we witness hate and division, we ask that you give us the wisdom to push back and approach one another with kindness and respect.
Take time to reflect on the interactions you had with others. Did you interact with those who have the same or differing views? Did their proximity to your beliefs impact the way you treated them or thought of them?