THREE MONKEYS

“You’re welcome.”

That phrase was the common response in English when someone is polite enough to say “Thank you” for something.

It has now become more common to hear a response of, “No problem” when someone says thank you.

My mother had a tough time with that phrase. She said it wasn’t the polite response.

I reminded her of her love for Spanish.

Thank you in Spanish is ‘gracias,’ and the common response is ‘de nada.’

“De nada” means ‘it is nothing.’ She was somewhat mollified after that.

We use “You’re welcome” in a different way than just as a response of courtesy.

We also use it to mean “Come on in.”

You are welcome here.

We see it on the door mats by the front door of someone’s home.

We see it on the signs in front of churches—EVERYONE WELCOME.

Is a sign enough to make someone feel welcome?

Have you ever been invited to participate in something, but you felt more like the invite was out of obligation than a desire for your company?

If you accepted, did you feel welcome?

From our scripture lesson this morning it appears that the early church was not always a welcoming place.

They had to be told to provide a welcoming atmosphere.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
Rom 15:7

Whenever you see a “therefore” in a verse, you should find out what it is there for.

The word therefore introduces a conclusion about something.

So why did Paul begin his encouragement to be a welcoming church with the word therefore?

Welcoming one another should be the result of our recognition of the various levels of faith that may be present within our congregation.

We who are strong have an obligation
to bear with the failings of the weak,
and not to please ourselves.
Rom 15:1

Most people view themselves as being strong—at least at some level.

As a result, we also tend to view others as being “less than” if they do not manifest the same characteristics we do.

Here, though, Paul addresses that very human failing by telling us that we should bear with the failings of those who are weaker than ourselves.

I find it interesting how the various translations handle the word “failings”.

KJV—infirmities  NKJV—scruples  NLT—sensitive  NASB—weaknesses

The phrase “bear with” means to carry the load.

Carry the load.

Think about that.

Why are we to carry the load for someone else?

The easy answer is that we are stronger, but there is more to it than that.

What is the load another may be trying to carry?

How heavy might it be for them?

How long have they been carrying that load?

Actually, Paul has been on somewhat of a rant as we come to this section, which is essentially an extension of his rant which he began in the previous chapter.

As for the one who is weak in faith,
welcome him,
but not to quarrel over opinions.
Rom 14:1

Chapter 14 deals with opinions about what foods are okay to eat and which days are okay to celebrate.

We go through that every year beginning with Halloween and not ending until Easter.

People will argue back and forth about whether God approves of this that or the other thing.

These are usually Bible-believing people who apparently have never read this verse about not quarreling over opinions.

Anyway, chapter 15 is a continuation of this thought about the differences we may find from one person to the next within the context of our congregation.

Strife among believers was as common in Paul’s day as it is in ours.

He addressed divisions over favorite preachers in the church of Corinth.

What I mean is that each one of you says,
“I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
1Co 1:12

He also addressed the divisiveness being caused by two women in the church at Philippi.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.
Phl 4:2

These kinds of situations within a congregation prove they have not yet matured in their walk with the Lord.

But I, brothers,
could not address you as spiritual people,
but as people of the flesh,
as infants in Christ.
for you are still of the flesh.
For while there is jealousy and strife among you,
are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
1Co 3:1, 3

Before Paul wraps up his rant in Rom. 14, he says

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Rom 14:19

The phrase “so then” is almost the same as the word “therefore” in that it offers a conclusion of the matter—what should be done.

We are to pursue peace and mutual edification.

As I watch the division in our nation grow ever wider, I often think of this verse about chasing after peace.

Because there is such a high level of sensitivity anymore, I have made it my practice in pursuing peace that I refuse to touch the bone of contention.

Emotions are running so high and hot that people are not able to engage in conversational debate about things, so I just leave it alone.

However, Paul says there is more to it than simply not addressing the problem.

He says that we are to welcome those who may think, believe or act differently than we do.

We are to extend the hand of fellowship, the kiss of peace, the warm embrace of love, the acceptance that they probably have not been given in the past.

The past is an important part of every situation we encounter.

I am still trying to learn that behind every action there is a story.

People do what they do, respond or react the way they do, because of something in their past.

This is true whether those actions are good or bad.

As we learned while participating in Celebrate Recovery

Hurt People Hurt People

The negative reactions you may receive from others—especially when you realize you did nothing intentionally to offend them—those reactions almost always come from some hurt in their past.

That past hurt could have been just a few moments prior to your engagement with them; or it may be something that occurred long ago.

We don’t know.

Generally speaking, neither does the one who reacted know why they did.

Often, when they think about it later, they will ask themselves, “Why did I do that?”

We have probably all been there at one time or another.

Our humanity gets in the way and we are forced to realize that we still fall short of the mark the Holy Spirit laid out for us in the words of the apostle Paul.

Therefore welcome one another
as Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
Rom 15:7

Where do we draw the line of welcome?

At what point do we let someone know they are not welcome within our midst?

Some of us have family members who are so far left they are antagonistic toward our beliefs.

What do we do about them?

Would they feel welcome in our midst even though we know they would sit through the entire service with arms folded and a scowl on their face?

Some of us have family members who have what we may term an alternate sexual lifestyle.

What do we do about them?

Would they feel welcome in our midst if we observed effeminate characteristics in a man, or masculine characteristics in a woman?

Family members are one thing, but how about the complete stranger coming in among us?

How would they feel?

We have learned much about the human condition over the past few decades, and one of those things is about our focus.

A human being is only capable of one emotional focus at a time.

Have you noticed how 20 years ago multitasking was all the rage; but now you hardly ever hear the phrase?

That is because it has been discovered that multitasking is not profitable, and sometimes dangerous.

We are only capable of one emotional focus at a time.

I have begun to observe this in relation to what Paul has tried to tell us in our passage today.

It is not possible to harbor a judgment against someone or their behavior and love them at the same time.

Therefore, where do we draw the line?

At what point is someone not welcome among us?

Which failing, weakness, sensitivity, scruple or sin is too much for our love to bear?

If God does not hold their sin against them, why do we?

in Christ
God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
2Co 5:19

Why?

Because God is love.

Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love.
1Jo 4:8

And love keeps no record of wrongs.

It (love) does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
1Co 13:5

Do you recall the three monkeys?

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

Do the three monkeys tell us what we shouldn’t see, speak or hear? Or, are they telling us about our attitude toward others?

We were originally taught that saying as children in order to help us to not do bad things.

We should not look at bad things, say bad things or listen to bad things.

I have since come to realize it has another, and I believe, a much deeper meaning.

What I see in others is not judged as evil.

I don’t say they are evil.

I don’t hear reports as being evil.

Is there wickedness in the world?

Yes, there is; but I do myself no favors by having a focus on it.

Is there sin in the world?

Yes, there is; but God has called me to focus on His love and not their sin.

Above all,
keep loving one another earnestly,
since love covers a multitude of sins.
1Pe 4:8

We are to show love by not keeping a record of wrongs.

Beloved, let us become determined to show a greater love than we have to this point.

Whatever your capacity for love is now,
may it increase even more.

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