Last night’s Bible study looked at Romans 1:5-13. This continues the idea that God gives endurance and encouragement and that when we have the same attitude as Christ (see Philippians 2), we grow in unity and where there is unity, God commands the blessing (Ps 133.)

We are commanded to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1). That means loving like God has loved (Eph 5:1-2) and forgiving as He has forgiven (Col 3:12-14). It also means accepting others as Christ has accepted us (Rom 15:7). There must be no strings attached to our acceptance. The Jews traditionally looked down on the Gentiles, not accepting them as being loved by God (a view Paul refutes from the Old Testament in Rom 15:8-12). So often in church history, Christians have looked down on others, apparently unable to distinguish between who a person is and what he does. Christ, as always, is our example. Change may be needed, but acceptance does not include a list of changes required before we can be welcomed in: none of us would have made it into the Kingdom of God under those membership rules! Instead, God accepts us freely and gives us the power to change; He asks us to accept others with the same generosity of spirit, opening our hearts to welcome people in. It’s a heart attitude.

This section concludes “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:13). Jesus promised to give us His joy (John 15:11) and His peace (John 14:27). Then we will not let our hearts be troubled or be afraid, for this joy and peace guard our hearts and allow us to experience hope, not despair.