Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Mission
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Dooley
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 15:1-33 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The English Standard Version has as its subheading for this passage, “The Example of Christ,” whereas the New Living Translation that you read today uses as its subheading, “Living to Please Others.” Both express the idea to which Paul is drawing our attention, yet they capture our imagination and interest differently.
How we inspire people and draw on their imagination—how we encourage them to think about Jesus—is foundational to our practice and application of faith.
Think about this for any aspect of your life that is not super important. For example, try choosing a household appliance. (To be fair, I should point out that I do care quite a bit about household appliances, but I am married to someone who does not worry much about brands and has almost zero brand loyalty.) Do you like Bosch, simply because you recall vaguely somewhere in the depths of your memory that Germans make great products? Or do you choose General Electric to be loyal to a product made in your own country (in this case the U.S.A.)? What inspires you to choose one thing over another? Can you rely on your judgements and be confident that you’ve made them correctly?
Now let’s transfer this idea to something that really does matter— the character of Jesus. What if you have misunderstood the character of Jesus? What if your views about Jesus are small and contained? What if they’re just wrong? Would it not be all too easy to apply your faith in a way that does not represent the Gospel?
It is interesting to think about how, in a world where many of us are obsessed with branding and control of our image, Jesus has tolerated His brand—“love”—to be expressed freely by humanity in so many different ways. Some of these are ways that no matter how broad your definition, you might struggle to accept. Romans 15:1 opens with this reminder: If you know, if you have, if you are in position of power, you have a responsibility to love more, to serve more, to give more, to accept more.
Perhaps our hesitation to love more comes from the lack of appreciation for how we have been loved. After all, as John points out in one of his short letters, we are only truly able to love because Jesus loved us first (1 John 4:19).
Some of us have the ability to recognize that our roots are not something to be ashamed of. Transformation stories are always good. Others have helped us at key moments in our lives. Admitting this is not about wallowing in the past nor allowing it to control us. It is about remembering and being grateful to those who have made a difference in our lives. When I was 7 years old, I arrived at a new school, and Mr. Redburn was my English teacher. What I noticed about him right away was that he knew how to say my name. He remembered my name. He encouraged me in my spelling and honestly wanted to see me succeed. I have never forgotten him. I only had him as a teacher for a month before they moved me to another class in that same school. Even though his face has grown dim in my memory, his name rings loud and true. When I taught Adventurers for kids ages 6-11 more than a decade later, I wanted to be like Mr. Redburn. To know every kid’s name. To remember them. To remind them that they can learn. That they have incredible potential always. We all have little moments where someone stronger can help us become stronger as well. And then we pass on the strength.
Recalibrate: What inspirational examples can you cite of those with strength who made others who were weak become strong?
Respond: Pray for a teacher who made a difference in your life.
Research: What does the story of Samuel’s call and Elia’s recognition mean in light of Romans 15?
Remember: “We, the ‘strong’ ones, should bear with the frailty of the ‘weak,’ and not please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, KNT).
Japhet De Oliveira is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Make a photo collage with your child about who your neighbor might be (friends, family, actual neighbors). If you don’t have photos of these people, draw their likenesses on a piece of paper. Talk about what makes each of them your neighbor. What about people you don’t know, or people who aren’t nice? Are they your neighbor? God has given us a special job. He wants us to love all people. To treat them kindly, even if they aren’t very kind. Who is one person you can model this love to?
Make a picture of your neighborhood. Make it really colorful and fun! Write the names of the people who live in each house you draw. If you don’t know their names, write something you do know about them. Paul tells us, in Romans Chapter 15, that we should please our neighbors. What do you think that means? What are some things that you think you could do to be a good neighbor? When we say the word “neighbor,” many people think that means the people we live next to. Do you think that neighbors are just the people who live in your neighborhood? Why or why not?
Billy was excited beyond belief to go to camp for the first time in his life. He arrived on the first day of camp in his overalls, a picture of his pet goat on the front pocket of the overalls, and wearing his faded green John Deere hat. To make matters even more thrilling, he had the coolest counselor, Matt. Billy would always try to be as close as he could to Matt. Unfortunately, so would all the other boys in his cabin. On top of that, he was mocked because the rest of them were from the suburbs and had dogs instead of goats, skinny jeans instead of overalls, and skater hats instead of faded green John Deere hats. Every time Billy tried to get close to Matt, the others shoved him out of the way and made fun of his clothes and speech. Slowly, Billy’s excitement faded and the thrill of camp disappeared. Wednesday evening, his counselor, Matt, built a campfire and provided s’mores for Billy and his cabinmates. When all the s’mores had been eaten, the boys headed back to the cabin. Before they left, however, Matt noticed Billy throw his beloved John Deere hat into the fire. The next day, the other boys continued to make fun of him, but he barely noticed anymore. That evening, Matt came back from his day off and knelt down in front of Billy, pulled out a bright green John Deere hat, and put it on Billy’s head. Then, he pulled out a second one and put it on his own head. “These are pretty cool hats,” he said. “You and me, we have to stick together.” It didn’t matter to the counselor that he was teased; he was going to be there for Billy to make him feel loved and accepted. Christ has done the same for you. He loves and accepts you. And if Christ, the King of all Kings, has accepted us, we ought to love and accept others. “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans 15:7 ESV. Today, I challenge you to ask God to fill you with His love so that you can in turn love and accept others as Christ does.