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28 August 2023

Romans 15: 1 – 6

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour.  For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.  May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Putting the needs of others before our own. 
That’s the vision that Paul presents of the church.
How wonderful it sounds!

But Paul knew as well as we do, that’s not always the reality.
Putting the needs of others before ourselves?
Putting up with others’ foibles which irritate and frustrate us?
Being generous in spirit to those who push us to the limit of our patience?
No, that’s not always easy.   Sometimes we may even think it’s impossible.
As we look around us in church and as we look into our own hearts we see the gap between the vision and reality.
So when we hear Paul’s aspiration for the church of a community where unity and selflessness reign we may feel a bit cynical.

Can church truly be like this? Will it ever?

Paul was not naïve when he wrote these words.  He knew that even followers of Jesus struggle to put his words into practice and to truly love each other. 

But he didn’t become cynical, either.  He still had hope in what God can do.  He still believed in the vision of transformed lives and communities, marked by radical and selfless love.

That’s why he wrote to the churches about love – to encourage them to hold on to the vision and to have faith in God.

Relying on our own strength it is impossible to live the reality of Paul’s words.

If we are to build harmonious communities of selflessness and graciousness we need God’s help.

We need God to remind us of the vision of what we ourselves and the church can be.

Then we need to ask God to give us what we need to make the vision become reality.
Loving Jesus
Thank you for loving me with all my foibles.
When I feel frustrated with others around me, fill me with your love.
When I feel cynical about the church, renew my vision.
Help me to see what, with your help, I and the church can be –
and grant that it may be so.


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