Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 26 2013 - Romans 9:25-10:13 – Belonging

I asked how Jesus had made a difference to their lives. One woman said that previously she had not felt that she fitted in anywhere or that she belonged. She had come along to church and had come to know Jesus Christ and now felt that she belonged and was accepted. She now knew that there were people who cared about her and this made all the difference.

This is what Paul is talking about when he speaks about the way in which God has included in his saving embrace those who had no special claim to be his covenant people. He says (in the wonderful rendering of Romans 9:25-26 in The Message);

I'll call nobodies and make them somebodies.
I'll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled, 'You're nobody!'
They're calling you 'God's living children.'

This is all because of Jesus. No one who calls on him is turned away; he embraces all who come to him in faith and gives them the privilege of being children of God. Paul writes that none who believe in him will be put to shame (Romans 10:11). Faith in Jesus is never misplaced. Jesus never lets down and never disappoints.

I think of those who turned to him during his earthly ministry. Blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus to help him. The crowds told him to be quiet but Jesus called him forward and restored his sight. Parents were bringing their little children to Jesus so that he might bless them. The disciples tried to shoo them away thinking Jesus far too busy to bother with children, but Jesus rebuked the disciples and welcomed the children. No one was turned away by Jesus.

Nor are any treated by him as second-class citizens. I think of the parable that Jesus told – the one we often call the parable of the prodigal son. The returning son hoped to be accepted back into his father’s house as a hired servant; he was looking only for the bare necessities to keep him from starving. But the father had been waiting with longing for his son to return. The son is embraced, clothed in the richest garments and the fatted calf is killed for him. He is welcomed back as a son. Jesus tells this parable to teach the Jewish leaders that in welcoming and eating with tax-collectors and sinners he reflects the open heart of his Father.

Paul is writing to a church in which there is tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians. He is reminding them that the Gospel breaks down all those barriers of race and background since God embraces all who come to him through the Lord Jesus Christ. Churches should be places where the Gospel is made visible as people from all backgrounds embrace one another and recognise that we belong together in the family of the people of God. They should be places where the barriers that divide people in our societies are broken down. They should be places where nobody feels a nobody and where everyone feels loved and valued.

Like the church at Rome, our churches often fail to be as welcoming as they should be. We need to learn more of the Father-heart of God and the unfailing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are accepted and embraced; let’s be an accepting and embracing people.

Father God, thank you that, by his death and resurrection, Jesus has broken down the barrier of separation between us and a holy God. Thank you that I am accepted in your beloved Son. Help me to work at demolishing the barriers that we so readily build between one another. Help me to forgive as I have been forgiven, to love as I have been loved and to accept others fully as I have been accepted into your family. May the community of your people be a living advertisement for the power of the Gospel.

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Peter Misselbrook