Bound in Unity
A devotional by Malinda Fugate
Romans 15:1-13 (NIV)
My soul is heavy as I look away from the headlines unfolding on Twitter and open a blank Word document to write. It feels like the world, already fragile from the strain of pandemic, is crumbling into pieces of division, violence, and unrest. My heart breaks for those who are hurting, helpless and angry at injustice. At times like these, when hope in humanity is frail, we know where to turn: the sovereign source of all strength, God our Father.
The Word contains so many encouragements of hope, including Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” How refreshing this is! He provides more than merely a nugget of hope for us to survive. We are filled to overflowing by the Holy Spirit, and with accompanying gifts of joy and peace! I wanted to place these promising words in context, so my eyes wandered to the beginning of the chapter to see what Paul was thinking.
This letter to the Romans was written in a time of great divide between the Jews and the Gentiles. Centuries of conflict separated the people, but Christ was a game-changer. Salvation wasn’t only meant for the Jewish people; God’s love extends to all His children. The problem, however, is that the tumultuous history was not quickly forgotten. Paul had a few things to say to the divided believers in Rome, and as I read his words, they resonated for such a time is this.
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (Romans 15:1-2)
We live in communities divided by race, economics, and history. Some groups experience benefits while others struggle through challenges daily. If we only focus on ourselves and remain blind to the plight of our neighbors, we are ignoring the commands of the Lord. Can we be brave enough to support our brothers and sister first, tending to their needs before addressing our own? Will we be the revolutionaries we are called to be and live as selflessly as Christ?
“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.”
We were never intended to be divided by race, economics, history, or any other factor. We were designed to be unified in Christ. This takes intention and effort. So often, we focus on more popular teachings of Jesus and ignore the difficult mandate to be together as one—despite our many differences. Yet, shouldn’t we work as diligently at unity as we do at honoring the Ten Commandments and caring for widows and orphans?
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7) Some translations say welcome or receive each other. We are to care for one another as family and dear friends. This is more than just acknowledgement or regarding one another fondly. When we accept, welcome, and receive each other, we are actively concerned for the well-being of our neighbor and involved in their life. This, says Paul, brings praise to God. By blessing others, we bless the Lord!
It’s after this discussion of unity that Paul speaks of hope. God blesses us with hope in the gift of community, and when we stray from that togetherness, we miss out. As we are currently realizing, there is pain and discord when we ignore our brothers and sisters and focus solely on ourselves. We know better. We can do better.
We can seek the Lord together and welcome His healing to our communities. This takes intentional effort, but the Holy Spirit equips us to follow the way of Jesus.
And there we shall discover overflowing hope.
Malinda Fugate writes from the heart.
Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words published in books. Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays.
Malinda invites you to explore the various 3:16s in the Bible with her new book, The Other Three Sixteens (published by Ambassador International in May 2020).
She also invites you to read her previously published books: Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon.com, and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God, which is an interactive creative writing journal.
Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, and then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.
When she's not writing or working at church, Malinda might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area. She lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi. Visit Malinda online via https://www.malindafugate.com.