WHEN A WELCOME IS RUINED
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7
Why would I not want to welcome someone today into my home, into my fellowship? While there may be a temporary reason like weariness, there is a much deeper reason when I can’t welcome someone over a long period of time. Chances are, they have hurt me by something they did or said or they offended me by their beliefs and lifestyle choices.
A lukewarm welcome feels terrible, doesn’t it? No welcome at all stings for a long time and the memory of it sits interminably in our soul.
Jesus’ welcome of me is beautiful. It has a history of longing. He knew me before I was ever conceived, knew I’d be born with the sin of Adam and lost without the intervention of a Savior. Because He longed for me to be His, He planned His coming to earth. He was called ‘The Lamb’ from before the foundation of the world; so old was the plan to make a way for me to be welcomed into His family.
He welcomed me even though I was His enemy. He welcomed me even though my list of personal offenses against Him was long. He welcomed me by paying for my ransom with His own death. Nothing, absolutely nothing, threatens His open embrace.
When I walk the halls of church, I am always tempted to welcome some more than others. Some, I like more than others. But is this the criterion of Jesus? If I’m in fellowship with people long enough, I will get hurt. When I see them, I’ll be tempted to mutter under my breath, “I remember what you did!” That taints my ability to welcome them.
The underlying theme of today’s scripture is forgiveness. I knew it as soon as I read it. Forgiveness is a lifestyle. When I’m offended, I lift the person who committed it to Jesus and leave them, and the offense, with Him. I’m not qualified to take His seat and play judge and jury. Otherwise, I hold others at arms length and fail to welcome them. At that point, God is mocked – not glorified. The world watches and they rightly assume that I am not like the God I say I love.
Forgive. Embrace. Breathe the life of the cross. God is lifted high and adored when warm welcomes, though undeserved by human standards, are extended. Gracious responses to offenders give off the aroma of a gracious God who forgives sin.
When my hug is tentative, I will be aware. Amen