Do you think that the men in these two photos could be less alike? Could the lads with tattoos, baseball caps and attitude ever have anything in common with the orthodox Jewish man, with his uniform dress code, beard and cultural background? Could they ever be friends, in fact more than friends, could they live like brothers? Could they ever come to love and accept each other?
I’ve used contemporary images to help us to grasp, as a church family, just how radical the teaching of justification by faith in Christ alone really is, and how it leads to acceptance on one another across massive cultural divides. Paul’s letter to the Romans was addressed to both Jewish Christian believers (who were steeped in centuries of Jewish custom, culture and law) and to Roman believers (who were freshly converted out of a culture of shrines, idols, gods and godesses, incense, temple prostitution, girly bars, orgies and predatory sex. Rome was a sort of cross between Bangkok and Brighton, but even more perverse, perhaps.)
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16
Accept one another (Jew and Gentile), then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy Romans 15:7-9
This is the radical application of acceptance by faith in the death of Christ for our sins. People who are not like each other, accept each other, for the glory of God. In our multicultural community, this brings the real possibility of acceptance in a deep, deep way. As people come to be humbled by Christ and repent of sin, they know God’s acceptance (from the vicarage Feb 2012) and so come to complete self-acceptance as a sinner saved by grace (from the vicarage March 2012) so we come to accept one another as brothers and sisters. Anyone who knows Christ this way will welcome brothers and sisters from diverse backgrounds into the church family and together we will point others to him as we grow in knowledge, love, faith and obedience.
I hope these last four letters have helped us grasp the wonders of the gospel and that we will look forward to seeing more and more folk from all sorts of backgrounds, even Scots, find acceptance through faith in Christ at Holy Trinity. With love, Neil