Our breakfast was chicken and hot peppers, served over stir-fried rice and eggs, and washed down with two bottles of orange crush. Yowzer! It was the breakfast I needed to wake me up and get me going after very little sleep in three days of travel from Texas to Thailand and ministry all day Saturday with Thai students. I would not have wanted to miss any of the Sunday experience that was about to unfold.
During the worship gathering, they introduced their guests. This took a long time in a gathering of three hundred or so. Our group of 13 were amazed that there were people from 13 different countries visiting that assembly on that day. Quite an international moment for just a "normal" summer Sunday. The presence of the Lord felt quite real and the book of Acts was no longer theory, but experience, as we sang two songs together with each language group singing the song in their own language. What a glorious anticipation of heaven's worship (Revelation 7:9-12)!
Maybe most surprising of all, we felt at home with these people. They welcomed us warmly. Many tried to speak English with us. We went to lunch with a big group at a nearby restaurant and shared the collision of cultures and languages with laughter and joy. After lunch, we played basketball and kicked around soccer ball. The connection to each other through Jesus and the Holy Spirit helped us experience the truth of Jesus' Great Commission and the Father's desire to bring all his children together in Jesus.
The apostle Paul said it this way:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:5-7).
Accepting one another — "welcome one another" as other translations read — is at the heart of who we are as a people. Jesus has brought us in and made us family out his generous love and grace (Romans 5:6-11). Now we are asked to do the same with others. What a glorious blessing to have experienced this principle and to feel the reality of Jesus' promise to be present when his followers are together (Matthew 18:20).
Shortly before we left late that afternoon to board the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I slipped into the sanctuary to watch several Thai people being baptized into Christ. I knew that this would cost some of them their relationship with their families and others might possibly lose their jobs. I couldn't understand what was being said until one of my new Thai friends slid in beside me and translated. To this day, I can still remember a young man taking off an amulet that he had bought for a large sum of money. This charm was purchased to "make merit" and to give him good karma. He laid the good luck charm on the side of the baptistery and said, "I paid a lot of money for this and I trusted that it would bring me good luck. I renounce that old life now and trust in Jesus." He was baptized into Christ. He was now my brother and I felt a deep connection to him. And suddenly, I knew what the apostle Paul said so many years before was true:
You were all baptized into Christ, and so you were all clothed with Christ. This means that you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28 NCV).
Paul describes how we were welcomed by Christ (Romans 5:5-11). What does that mean for the ways we are to welcome others (Romans 15:5-11)?
Paul speaks strongly to his Christian friends in Philippi about "the same mind" and points us to having the "mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:1-11). This passage goes with others mentioned above (Romans 15:5-11 & Galatians 3:26-28) and will help you answer the personal questions below:
What do you need to do to more deeply value and welcome brothers and sisters in Christ who are different from you?
What keeps you from reaching and welcoming others into the body of believers?
What barriers do we often let get in our way that keep us from more openly welcoming those who are different from us?
I'd love to hear your insight and answers and hope you will leave a response on my blog: