Scripture Reading: Romans 15:1-21, 2 Samuel 22:50-51, Psalm 117:1-2
Some of my fondest memories as a kid include long summer days spent at the pool. These memories are filled with flipping off the diving board, shouting “Marco Polo,” and of course, playing King of the Mountain. The goal of King of the Mountain was to be the only one on top of the raft, ruling your kingdom by any means necessary. Growing up with brothers, I had to be scrappy and strategic to win at this brutal game. From a young age, I learned that only the strong survive.
I’m told that as a grown-up, it’s not cool to push people off rafts at the pool. The thing is though, we still want to be on top. We just have different rafts now, and we’ve learned to defend our turf in more covert, “polite” ways.
So much of how we respond has to do with the season we’re in. When we’re treading water, we hope and pray for a gracious hand to help us onto the raft. But when we’re on top, it’s easy to become prideful in our position. It gets especially ugly when we believe there isn’t enough room on the raft for everyone. Even in the Church, we can foster the belief that the kingdom of God only has space for the “good” people, whether we’re conscious of it or not.
In our reading for today, Paul was writing to a Roman church comprised of two very different people groups: the Jews and the Gentiles. Even from its earliest days, it seems there were divisions amongst the believers in that region. Those who were “strong” didn’t want to help those they considered weak. But Paul challenged the Romans to accept one another, just as Christ had accepted them (Romans 15:7).
Paul points out that even the strongest among us, Jesus Christ, did not use His power to please Himself. If anybody had a right to boast it was the Lord, yet He took our weakness upon Himself to the point of sacrificing His very life.
We are all in need of God’s grace. In that humility we can seek to be like Jesus, freely passing on the strength and encouragement that has been gifted to us. If the Lord of the universe humbled Himself and bore our weaknesses, how much more eager should we be to do the same for those whom He’s placed around us?
In addition to following the sacrificial example of Jesus, Paul also calls the Roman church to accept one another for the glory of God. When we’re competitive and exclusive in our churches, how do you suppose we’re seen from the outside? Our witness is compromised by our selfishness. But if we’re a countercultural people and can demonstrate with love and sincerity that there is room at the table of God, then we will have something divinely different to offer.
It’s tempting to believe the lie of this world, that we must fight to be on top. But in the kingdom of God there is always enough for everyone. As believers, we’re called to lay down our lives for others just as Christ did, to love both the strong and the weak. If we stop trying to protect our little rafts, together we will glorify and join in celebration with the one true King, who lives and reigns over all the mountains.
Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.