Some friends of ours had a son who was moving house. He hadn’t done a great job in saving up for it, and as always, it cost far more than he had reckoned on, so he ran out of money half way through to pay day, and still needed equipment for the new house. He rang up his parents and reluctantly asked for a loan. They considered it, and phoned him back.
“We aren’t lending you the money, because we don’t think you can pay it back. However, we will give it to you as a gift.”
“You can’t do that, you can’t afford it!” he replied, somewhat amazed.
“Of course we can do that; you are our son.”
And that’s how God is with us. It’s not because we deserve it that he is so generous with us, but because we are his kids!
When Jacob arrived at Laban’s house he was welcomed with open arms. (Genesis 29:13-14) Did they know him? Had he earned the right to a warm reception? No on both counts. But he was family. One of them. So welcome he was.
I know I am very fortunate to belong to a loving family, that I am accepted because of who I am, not because I earn it. I know that there are many folk who do not enjoy this privilege. But the same is true in our relationship with God. He accepts us, loves us and provides for us because he has adopted us into his family (Ephesians 1:5). The same should also be true of our church family. We need to accept one another warmly. Of course we need to be wise, and not exploited in our relationships with one another; but we all need to feel cared for. I’ll grant you there are some folk in churches the world over, who are jolly hard to love for one reason or another; but if they are not received lovingly in church, where are they welcome? And actually, it’s not optional. “Love one another as I have loved you,” is a pretty clear standard!