Last weekend I had the opportunity to honor my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. It was great! We had a few surprises in store for them (like my brother from New Mexico flying in unexpectedly for the weekend), but mostly, we just hung out, played games, and ate way too much food.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was watching my parents open cards that friends had mailed to them. Many of the cards contained handwritten memories. Card after card revealed a pattern my parents have lived out for the past 50 years: They have repeatedly welcomed others into their lives and home.

Welcome One Another
This week in the News & Notes, we are continuing our “One Another” series, looking at five “one another” passages from the book of Romans. (If you’ve missed past “notes”, you can catch those on the Riverwood blog.) This week, we come to Romans 15:7, which says…

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Notice the first word in that sentence: “Therefore.” I heard years ago that when you see the word “Therefore” in the Scripture, you need to ask “what is that “therefore” there for?”

The word “therefore” means a point is being made. So you need to know what comes before the “therefore” to understand the point. So let’s jump back a couple of sentences to understand Paul’s point in verse 7 better.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6)

Paul is imploring the church in Rome to be unified for the long haul. To be unified, there must be harmony. That’s why he brings up (again) the topic we looked at last week from Romans 12:16 – to live in harmony with one another . But he takes this idea of harmony even further than what he said in 12:16. This time, he says to do it “in accord with Christ Jesus.”

With these words, Paul is taking us back to the gospel. He doesn’t just give us some moral platitudes that will help us have a nice little church club. To have true harmony, he reminds us it starts with Jesus.

That’s why in verse 7, when Paul says to “welcome one another” he appeals to the gospel. The gospel says that you and I are sinners, worthy of death as the penalty for our sin. However, Jesus died in our place so that justice could be done against sin, yet we personally and corporately could be free to live in a covenant relationship with our God.

In other words, the gospel means that God welcomes us into His family, into a relationship with Him. And because He welcomes us, we should welcome one another.

Practically Welcoming One Another
Here’s how this works out practically in the life of a church family:
* We welcome strangers to our Sunday Worship Gatherings. Whether you are serving officially as a greeter on Sunday, or simply see someone sitting near you that you don’t know, you welcome them.
* We invite people to our Growth Groups, welcoming them into our homes and lives to study the Scripture and pray for one another.
* We welcome people to come serve with us at things like the Food Bank or the Waverly Community Gardens.
* Most of all, we welcome people into our homes and lives. We invite them to enjoy food with us, watch a movie, play a game, or just sit and talk over coffee.

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph above, one of the surprises we had planned for my parents’ 50th was for my brother to fly up for the weekend from New Mexico. (You can see a one-minute video I shot of my brother’s arrival.) My parents live on five acres outside of Pella, Iowa, so they don’t get many people stopping by and ringing the doorbell. So both of my folks went to the front door to see who it was. When they opened the door, there stands my brother, who jokingly said, “Got room for one more?” My parents welcomed my brother into the house and into their arms, and it launched a great weekend of all being together.

But later on that evening, as we opened those anniversary cards and heard the handwritten memories, I realized my parents have been opening their door and arms to people for 50 years.

May Riverwood be the type of church that opens its doors, arms, and hearts to one another and to the spiritually disconnected of our communities. May we be a church family that fulfills Romans 15:5-7, that experiences a unity because of Jesus, and because God has welcomed us through Jesus’ death and resurrection, may we welcome one another.