As we’ve been approaching the time of year when lots of new faces flood into our church services, events, and community, I’ve been pondering what Paul was thinking of when exhorting the church to ‘welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you’ (Romans 15.7).
I don’t know how you feel about what Paul has said – is it something that gets you excited, or is it an overwhelming prospect? I wonder what wisdom, challenge, and encouragement we can take from considering how Jesus modelled welcome.
Jesus spent a lot of His time welcoming people and inviting them to follow him. He did so with boldness, acting out the will of the Father. I wonder how often we are held back from extending our welcome to people out of fearing the opinions of other people, or even the people we seek to welcome. In Matthew 9.10-11, regardless of the Pharisees’ scoffs, Jesus and His disciples ate with tax collectors and sinners. Christ welcomed those society didn’t deem worthy. Christ welcomed you and I, when we weren’t worthy… What do we do with this?
Paul would say we follow His example and extend Christ’s welcome to those around us. Are you hesitant to talk to the person next to you at church? Are you nervous to walk across the room to say hi to someone you don’t know? Me too. But we don’t need to be! God is within us and has promised to go before us. We can welcome them boldly and know that we’re safe in the hands of God. Your welcome might just make all the difference to the person receiving it.
From Matthew 9.10-11 we also see that Jesus welcomes people unconditionally. He didn’t just welcome those that were ‘good enough’, had it all sorted, or were respected by others. Jesus breaks social barriers with love and care. He sees people’s brokenness and doesn’t leave them to figure it out alone. Rather, He links arms with them and invites them to walk with Him.
In this invitation, we see also how Christ has welcomed us fully – to participate in the fullness of Him. As Jesus called the twelve disciples to follow Him, He invited them to come and eat, sleep and live with Him. Jesus’ welcome was followed by an invitation to participate and join in. His welcome includes an invitation to belong. How can we invite people to participate and join in not just in our Sundays, but in our lives – to belong?
Jesus’ welcome was entirely generous and self-sacrificial. ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20.28). I find it helpful to remind myself that all that I have is in Jesus. This frees us to be open-handed with all that we have: our time, energy, gifts, resources, finances.
I have also been struck by how Jesus’ welcome was often very practical. As crowds gathered in search of Jesus, much like people gathering in our church in this season, Jesus attended to their needs, healing them and caring for them in practical ways. He said to His disciples, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way’ (Matthew 15.32). In what practical ways can we extend our welcome to those we meet?
As we step out to welcome people more boldly, fully, unconditionally, generously, and practically… remember that you’re not doing it in your own strength. The only way we can truly do any of this is by drawing from the unlimited power of God. He is the one who provides us with all we need as we step out in obedience, seeking to please and glorify Him.
What is it about Christ’s welcome that stand out to you?
What aspect of it challenges you?
How can you be welcoming people into our church family as Christ has welcomed you into His?