Welcoming Builds Up the Community (Romans 14:19–15:33)
Another aspect of welcoming is that it strengthens the community. “Each of us must please the neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor” (Rom. 15:3) in much the same way that a welcoming host makes sure that a visit strengthens the guest. The “neighbor” here is another member of the community. “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding,” Paul says (Rom. 14:19). Mutual up-building means working together in community.
From chapters 14 and 15, we see that welcoming is a powerful practice. Paul is not talking about simply saying hello with smiles on our faces. He is talking about engaging in deep moral discernment as a community, yet remaining in warm relationship with those who come to different moral conclusions, even on important matters. As far as Paul is concerned, the continuing relationships in the community are more important than the particular moral conclusions. Relationships bring a quality of life to the community that far exceeds any possible satisfaction from being right about an issue or judging another to be wrong. It also is a more attractive witness to the world around us. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). When we welcome one another, the final result by God’s mercy (Rom. 15:9) is that “all the peoples praise him” (Rom. 15:12).