This week Paul adds another component of our God-given DNA as Christians and as the church—acceptance. We all know people who have had a bad experience in the church and with Christians in general. Often non-believers feel they are expected to change in order to be accepted. Christians may give the impression that they are good and have arrived, while rejecting non-Christians because of their lifestyle, values and choices. No one wants to be part of any organization that is not accepting. When you try to fit in, try to develop a relationship and then feel that you just bounce off and cannot find a bond, you are not inclined to learn more, dig deeper or invest yourself. You simply want OUT!
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. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Ro 5:5-9)
Two of the most powerful forces on the human soul are acceptance and rejection. Acceptance and rejection shape us. One we move toward and the other we move away from. Angry people often have hurts from some past rejection; while people we consider to be well balanced may have a history of acceptance and support. The church is to be a place where people can come as they are and find an environment of acceptance. As faith comes, growth and change will happen, but it will happen where acceptance is found. If a person knows he/she is accepted, then they will allow themselves to be influenced by those who accept them. In this place of safety and acceptance God moves, growth happens and lives are changed.
Has anyone ever rejected you? Have you ever been in an environment where you felt judged, rather than accepted? When you meet someone, what influences your first impression of them? How do you respond when you see that someone is being rejected or shut out of an event, conversation, etc? If you grew up in the church, what was the response when someone new or different showed up? Are you more of an accepter or rejecter? Do you truly stand in awe of the fact that God reached down, WAY DOWN, and accepted you?
Remember that Christ accepted you! G – Give of yourself to others. L – Listen to others. U – Understand where others are coming from. E – Encourage others for their successes and for their potential. Work at being an accepter!
Dear God, thank you for reaching into this world, for reaching all the way to the cross so that I could be accepted by you through Jesus’ sacrifice. Help me to extend your acceptance to others that they may see your love and grace in me and be influenced by your Spirit. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.