Another ministry year has begun. Our small group kicked off last week with good food and discussion around the purpose of our time together. In preparing for the women, and in adding some new women to the group, the idea of “welcoming warmly” has been on my mind.
This morning’s sermon drove these thoughts home, as the pastor asked us to consider how Christ has welcomed us. Christ’s welcome and our ability to welcome go hand in hand:
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)
In what ways has Christ welcomed us, and how does this enable us to “welcome one another”? Whether you’re leading a small group, hosting friends and family, pastoring your flock, or getting to know your neighbors, consider a few ways to welcome, based on how Jesus has welcomed you:
1. Jesus has welcomed you into the family of God. Welcome boldly.
Every Christian was once a hater of God, his enemy, and dead in trespasses and sins. But God being rich in mercy and lavish in grace made us alive together with Christ and invited us into fellowship with himself forever. We now share in the perfectly unified relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, having been adopted into the family of God. Not only this, every Christian is part of Christ’s body, the church, his hands and feet of mercy and grace in the world.
What does this mean for our ability to welcome other believers? First, it means that we are more unified with others than we are different from them because we are all members of God’s family. The worldly distinctions that once divided us no longer do because Christ’s gospel is our shared foundation. We can form relationships with people whom we might never have invested in previously because we are their brother or sister in Christ. Are you nervous about that new person coming to small group? Are you hesitant to talk to the person next to you at church? Me too. But we don’t need to be! If they’ve trusted Christ, they’re our family. We can welcome them boldly.
2. Jesus has welcomed you into his mercy and grace. Welcome unconditionally.
When he saved us, Christ did not give us what our sins deserved: condemnation, just judgment, and hell. More than this, he gave us far more abundantly than we ever deserved, primarily in uniting us with himself, adopting us into his family, and promising to be with us always through his Spirit. What mercy, to be spared from rightful judgment; what grace, to be granted unmerited favor! And his mercy and grace are continuous, for when we sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us.
What does this mean for our ability to welcome other believers? It means that the ground is level at the cross. All of us have deserved worse and gained infinitely more through Christ’s mercy and grace, so none of us can boast. None of us have any ground for acting high and mighty, especially those in leadership roles. We are commanded to be merciful and full of grace toward sinners, which is all of us, making forgiveness and unity priority. We go out of our way to seek reconciliation; to offer the comfort of the gospel to a repentant brother or sister; to grieve our own sin and openly confess to other believers; and to joyfully worship Jesus together in grateful thanksgiving for what he has offered us freely. We can welcome others unconditionally.
3. Jesus has welcomed you into his eternal inheritance. Welcome generously.
As Christians, we help each other remember that this world is not our final home. Right now, we are in the body and away from the Lord, as we walk by faith and not by sight. But someday, we will be at home with Jesus and see him face to face. Christ will welcome us into an eternity of perfection in his presence then, and he gives us the guarantee of such a home now in his Holy Spirit. Through Christ and guaranteed by his Spirit, we receive every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, including his fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. All that is God’s is ours through Christ.
What does this mean for our ability to welcome other believers? Because we have all we need in Jesus, we are free to be open-handed and generous with our time, energy, gifts, resources, and finances. Because this world is not our final home, we can gladly open our earthly homes as intentional mission fields, trusting that God will use this welcoming to make disciples and add to the number of those being saved. Even when we feel depleted, weak, and ill-equipped, we can trust that the Spirit will bear fruit in us for the work God gives us to do. We can welcome others generously.
Welcome as Christ has welcomed you.
Through Christ, God has called every Christian to welcome other believers, whether through the doors of the church, in the pew, or while “doing life” during the week. When we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, we bless the church, show Christ to the world, and in doing so, we bring glory to God.
This week, Christian, welcome as Christ has welcomed you.