This rewritten post from Romans about showing hospitality isn’t about running your own B&B–it’s about showing God’s grace and mercy to others, no matter if they are believers or not. Read on to discover what Paul says about taking care of God’s people!
Today’s rewritten Bible post makes a lot more sense! YAY! Click to read about not being ashamed of the Gospel, as Paul recommends.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
A lot of times we hear this verse quoted in almost a warlike way–“if you’re not for us, then you’re against us, and since God is on our side, you won’t win.” But this is not meant to be a war chant, especially when considered within the context of the preceding paragraph:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Verse 31, then, is meant ultimately as encouragement to believers who still struggle, wondering whether they’re really important to God. Paul asserts that most certainly they are important to God, that they were called, predestined to be part of His Kingdom, and that God is always working for their good even while other human beings may scheme to tear them down. The same is true for us modern-day believers.
Now, God “always working for our good” doesn’t mean that our human-designed plans will always go flawlessly, that we’ll win every game we play, or that we’ll have all our heart’s desires fulfilled. But God will be there to support us when tragedies come, when sorrow creeps in or when betrayal strikes, orchestrating a far grander plan in which all believers will be glorified in the end.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In these three verses, Paul explains God’s grace-filled plan, Christ’s central role in it, and our amazing benefit from His sacrifice. We–the children of God, all humanity–were “powerless” before Christ came to be the final sin offering, the final and most powerful sacrifice to make us right with God again.
This is inconceivable to us ordinary humans; why would Jesus do this for us, when very few of us would die for each other? But that is just the nature of God’s love. He cared so much for each of us, wanted to be reconnected with us so badly, that He did this drastic action, suffered and died for us so that our sins would be paid in full.
And the strangest (and yet best) part of this? We didn’t have to accept Jesus first for Him to do this for us. He loved us even though we were “ungodly,” died for us just the way we were. Accepting that love, forging that connection with him, accepting that unbelievable gift, is all we have to do to be saved. None of us, not even the “worst” sinners by the world’s calculations, have to do anything to be loved by God.
12 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
This advice from the apostle Paul is at least 2,000 years old–and yet we modern Christians still haven’t learned from it, if the church’s actions themselves to be believed.
One of the main outside critiques I hear about the modern Christian church is that it is full of “judgmental” people. Yet we Christians often refute this claim as vehemently as if we were being accused of a horrible crime. “We’re not judgmental!” we say in defense of ourselves. “Jesus taught us to be loving and kind, and compassionate!”
That He did, most certainly. But how long is it till someone from church slips up, and we can’t help but gossip just a little bit about them?
- “Didja hear what So-and-so did? I heard he’s been sleepin’ around, right under the missus’ nose…”
- “Well, I heard that So-and-so’s goin’ drinkin’ at all hours, drinkin’ and dancin’ like she ain’t got no shame!”
And, after we’ve finished our gossip, we usually add the phrase, “And they still think they’re a Christian.”
That right there is judgment of our fellow Christians. The Roman church was doing it too, and the apostle Paul rebuked them for it in this verse. He knew that Christians judging each other could lead to more sin and corruption within the church than anything, and he wanted to halt it before it got too much worse.
When we judge one another, especially harshly, we make it harder for the one we’ve judged to return to church, to worship with us, maybe even to pray or have a personal relationship with Christ. After all, when church reminds you of all the people who’ll be looking at you askance, why would you even try to return? Harsh judgment is an obstacle and a stumbling block to others, especially when we too sin and make mistakes.
When we become saved, we do not magically become unable to sin anymore. Our human nature is still there, though Jesus has paid the cost of all our sin and we no longer have to answer for it all. And so, being still imperfect, we are not suitable to judge each other–only God, being perfect and holy, is suitable to judge each of us.
Every person in church is battling sin in some form; as a church, we are simply a family of believers worshipping God together. The best thing we can do is to lift each other up and encourage each other to keep battling that sin, and to support one another when the battle seems nearly lost. To rush to judgment is to doom that person to a lost battle, and perhaps even a lost war.
Paul doesn’t mince words–he tells us, in his straightforward manner, that we need to be concerned with the welfare of other believers. But the second part of the verse expands that concept into practicing hospitality, which is a much wider-reaching act.
Hospitality is not just reserved for those who are “good enough” Christians or “close enough” to your family. It’s also for those who don’t know God, those who have turned away from God, and those who believe He doesn’t even exist. We are called by God to show His grace and mercy to every person–not just tell about that grace and do nothing.
My NIV translation notes that “the Christian has a social responsibility” to help others, because showing God’s forgiveness and mercy is a wonderful witness. For a believer to receive help from their church family after storm damage is an astounding blessing, for instance. But for someone who doesn’t know God–or doesn’t care to know Him–that act of help could be the one thing that changes their minds about Christians and our faith.
Paul tells us to share with other believers in need as part of expressing our Christian love for them, as Christ expressed His love for us. But Christ also reached out to those whom the disciples would not listen to, whom the disciples tried to turn away–He ate with tax collectors, touched lepers, and spoke kindly to those accused of crimes, all to show that God still loved them. We need to do the same, if we call ourselves Christians.
Here we see Paul discussing his approach to the gospel, which he says is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone…for the Jew, then for the Gentile”–meaning people who’ve studied a whole lot about the Law, people who don’t know anything about it, and everyone in between. He boldly proclaims he’s not afraid of talking about the gospel, because he believes it’s important for everyone to hear.
Unfortunately, these days it’s pretty hard to talk about religion/faith in public with this much boldness. Religion, like politics, is a hot-button topic which seems best saved for single-family dinner tables and not public gatherings; no matter what you believe, somebody’s going to get offended by it, it seems. Everyone gets a little antsy when religious beliefs come up in conversation, especially when there are opposing views present, or if one person starts to accuse another of not believing as strongly as they should. Disagreements about beliefs can start fights and even break up friendships.
Personally, I often just keep my mouth shut just for safety’s sake when it comes to discussions of faith. It’s not that my faith is weak–I just don’t want to offend anyone, and I don’t want to be lumped in with the belligerent “Bible-thumpers” who never listen to anyone but themselves. Sometimes, I find myself about to share my experience of God with someone, and it sticks to my tongue instead.
But those who don’t know anything about God have got to hear about Him from somebody. Paul’s words in this verse also remind us that there is a way to share the gospel without being overbearing about it. Simply sharing our own personal experiences with God’s grace and power, and not necessarily preaching about what is “right” and “wrong” in God’s eyes, can be more moving and touching to another person who has never known that peace that passes all understanding. We can best show God’s unconditional love by offering it to others, telling them of His forgiveness and grace, as Paul advises. If anyone is a mender of broken souls and a healer of spiritual hurts, it is God, and people need to know that. We serve God best when we share from our own hearts, courageously and compassionately.