Romans 15:7 “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant” (NIV).

Observation: In Romans 15, Paul continued his persuasive arguments to the effect that the Gospel is the great leveler. The strong should serve the weak, and we should let personal offense fall upon Christ Himself so we can live in a spirit of unity.

Application: Paul told the Roman Christians to accept one another, which seems a principle so obvious as to cause me to rush by it with hardly a second glance. Even the modifying phrase, to accept “just as Christ accepted you” may cause only a furtive glance over the shoulder to see if He’s watching. But to accept others as Christ accepts me is such an obviously appropriate thing to do that my day’s agenda need not be seriously interrupted.

Ah, tripped up again! How I would love to keep Scripture’s deeper meanings at arm’s length, as in “everyone knows the proper color for a house is white, but to purchase peace in the neighborhood, I will accept your preference for blue.” But this call to acceptance is so much profounder than that.

Imagine Mother Theresa sitting in a sewage-strewn street of Calcutta, cradling the emaciated body of a dying child. Flies crawl over wounds oozing life itself as a sickening stench rises like a gathering storm from the permanently unwashed.  Hers is the acceptance of Christ.

I gained perspective of my own old cold heart as my wife lay dying for a number of years. Her paralysis led to an ever-increasing need for me to shift roles from husband to caregiver, doing what I could to meet physical needs she could no longer attend to. Dutiful and determined, I became a good “surface” picture of Paul’s admonition to be accepting.

But poverty filled my heart, an encroaching dullness unrecognized by me at first but gradually exploding in a mocking litany of loss. It was then that Paul’s next sentence exposed my lack: “Christ has become a servant.” As the truth of that gradually burst over my heart, everything changed. I became eager to rise to serve her, and sought new ways to meet her needs. Accepting our circumstances by serving her became not just rote duty but my highest calling. In this, we experienced a dimension of love fresh and new for us both and profoundly Christlike.

Prayer: Father, it wasn’t necessary for my wife to die for me to learn to love as Christ loves, but it was critical that I die, wasn’t it? Use this lesson to prick me afresh when I tend to again read these verses too casually. Thank You for Your light in the darkest places of my life.