Day 18

December 20

Romans 15:7-13

7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the ancestors 9 and that the gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the gentiles and sing praises to your name”; 10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O gentiles, with his people”; 11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the gentiles; in him the gentiles shall hope.” 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Extending Grace

by Joao Chaves, Ph.D.

In his A Shorter Commentary on Romans, Swiss theologian Karl Barth says that God’s acceptance of the Gentiles, as stated in Romans 15:7, “is the good in which the Law of the whole Church consists. Bearing in mind this good, the Church has to find her attitude to the human diversity within the form of Christian obedience, and Christians must find their attitudes to each other within these diversities.” It then follows that Romans 15:7-13, especially for those of us who read it as accepted Gentiles, is both a gift and an invitation.  

The gift is that God’s inclusivity in Christ allows us to rest assured of having been accepted by, to quote Paul Tillich, “that which is greater than you.” The experience of grace resides in accepting that we are accepted despite ourselves—and that we can thus rejoice even considering challenging situations.  

The invitation consists of accepting others as God is accepting of us. Acceptance, of course, can be perceived as a low bar in a context in which many non-accepted people would prefer their differences to be celebrated, not merely accepted. Paul’s qualifier, however, addresses the extent to which we must accept others: “just as Christ accepted you.” We are invited to offer the highest kind of acceptance, the kind that was provided for us in Christ. 

Paul hands us deep, multilayered truths for this Advent season in this text. Rejoice! You are accepted, and that is God’s gift to you. Accept others! Not begrudgingly, but “just as Christ accepted you.” Such a tall task makes me wonder if that is why Paul ends this section with a prayer—highlighting joy, peace, hope, and trust in God. May the coming of Christ remind us that we are called to live freely as accepted people, expressing our God-given freedom in joyfully accepting those we are tempted to exclude.  

About the Author

Joao Chaves, Ph.D.

Joao Chaves, Ph.D.

João B. Chaves joined the Department of Religion at Baylor University in the fall semester of 2023. His research focuses on the history of religion in the Américas, the influence of U.S. Protestantism in Latin America and the development of Latin American/Latinx religious networks in the United States. Dr. Chaves is an award-winning author who has written several books, most recently The Global Mission of the Jim Crow South: Southern Baptist Missionaries and the Shaping of Latin American Evangelicalism (Mercer University Press, 2022) and Remembering Antônia Teixeira: A Story of Missions, Violence, and Institutional Hypocrisy (Eerdmans, 2023), co-authored with Dr. Mikeal Parsons. Dr. Chaves also co-edited a book with Dr. T. Laine Scales, titled Baptists and the Kingdom of God: Global Perspectives (Baylor University Press, 2023). His peer-review articles appear in several academic journals, such as The International Journal of Latin American Religions, The Journal of Reformed Theology, Political Theology, Review and Expositor, Perspectives in Religious Studies, and Baptist History and Heritage. 

Additionally, Dr. Chaves has written opinion pieces about the history of Christianity in Latin America for periodicals and magazines, including the Washington Post and The Christian Century. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He is also part of a research team working with award-winning filmmakers on a forthcoming documentary exploring the connections between Christian Nationalisms in Brazil and the United States. Dr. Chaves came to Baylor after holding simultaneous positions as an Associate Director at the Hispanic Theological Initiative at Princeton Theological Seminary (HTI) and an Assistant Professor at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.