Gleanings – Lowly Maybe but Neighbor Just the Same

Romans 12:9-21

“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceded.”

Hard to get to this place without what the late John Stott calls the “sober self-image” sown by the Apostle Paul in verses 3 to 8. Indeed it is a great obstacle to mission and acutely so in the circles in which I have lived and traveled. Too often, when the Gospel does its magic and redeems people from all walks of life, a dark side of us is revealed. We prefer people who are like us in terms of clothing, customs, education, income and interests to name a few. It is not a problem unique to the wealthy and affluent but it certainly reigns there.

Ironically churches in recent years have been built upon this darkness in what we call the homogeneous unit principle. We carve out a niche appealing to the tastes of a certain neighborhoods or suburbs or ages (in its first rendition the mega-church reached boomers intentionally and almost exclusively) and consciously or subconsciously we end up affirming those tastes to the exclusion of others and thereby narrow the limits of who is welcome in our particular Body of Christ. We create in the process the “wrong side of the tracks.”

This was not the way of Jesus who was hammered on more than one occasion for the (lowly) company he kept. Tax collectors, fisherman, ultra-nationalists, harlots and the all-encompassing sinners, are, but to name a few, those made a part of his circle.

Any church honoring Jesus is just as diverse, not by diversity training, but by loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is the fruit of that sober self-image. Pastors should resist any temptation to build what is undone by the Gospel itself. If we find success in dividing up the Body, how will we ever be one in Christ? Followers should expect of their church and each other a Gospel humility that never celebrates one class above another among people who are equally sinners and equally redeemed in Christ Jesus.


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