Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Rom 15:7 NIV
Accepted! The word itself brings peace and joy. There is such power in feeling accepted and part of a group.
In a small group recently, we discussed the blessings and challenges in being and feeling accepted, and accepting others, even when they may not seem to accept us in return.
Acceptance is a universal human need; we all are designed to be part of a group. When that group is a healthy element of the Family of God, meeting that desire brings great good, both to us and to others in the group. If the group is dysfunctional or “off” in one way or another, then our being part of it may be harmful to us in various degrees.
But no matter how good or bad the groups available to us may be, a deisre to be a part of some sort of fellowship is there.
Every relationship involves give and take; we all have needs as well as talents/giftings to share. Leadership entails giving more than we receive, an oxymoron that can only hold true if we have a different source of supply (more on this later). For believers (and really, everyone, whether they acknowledge Him or not) , that Source is the Lord. That is why it is essential for every believer who aspires to or is in leadership in whatever capacity to have a vibrant relationship with God. Without Him we truly can do nothing.
God accepts us without condition, with the only basis being our acceptance of His Son. We are accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6 KJ21). What a joy to know that He loves us no matter what we do or don’t do! What peace and comfort such Love brings, enabling us to pass some of that loving acceptance on to those around us. We comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1:4.NIV*).
It hurts to feel rejected. But the fact that we have and will continue to experience God’s acceptance through His Son helps us extend acceptance to others.
How can we do this practically? The ways are probably as diverse as the types of possible relationships in the world. But it can be as simple as smiling at someone who isn’t. Or choosing to listen to someone who may have difficulty speaking with people. An affirming word (you are really good at…, I really appreciate it when you…) may also work. Touch, such as on the shoulder or an appropriate hug is a powerful way of communicating loving acceptance that is often not practiced due to fear of being misconstrued. ( I remember as a young believer living far from home how much it meant to me to receive a hug at the end of the service by one of the strong sisters-in-the-Lord.)
The various renderings of the word translated “accept” in Romans 15:7 bring out some of these practical ways of making others feel loved in this way: “receive”, “welcome”, “befriend”.#
However we express it, acceptance is something that needs to be consciously (at least at first) shown; unfortunately, because of past experiences by default most people assume that you do not accept them until they experience otherwise.
At Thanksgiving this year, we invited a group of friends over for a holiday meal. Afterwards, one of them wrote that the gathering felt like a “real Thanksgiving”. As I ponder that statement in this context I would say that the key to making a people feel at home in any gathering is making them feel welcome and accepted. Only then are people free to be the way God made them to be without fear of ostracism or judgement.
Accept one another….
*It is worth noting that Paul is writing this to disciples, followers of the Lord that are undergoing persecution in various forms just as he did. Recently, I heard part of a radio interview with an apostle (church planter) in an underground church network in Asia. When asked if he saw the message of the Cross (i.e. of suffering) as a positive one, he laughed, and then answered “yes!”. This from a believer who has been imprisoned, beaten and tortured multiple times for his faith. Testimonies such as these and those of other heroes of the faith thtrough the ages lead us to believe that God gives a special revelation and level of grace to those who truly risk all for Him. As they were about to stone Stephen, he had a vision of Christ standing at the the Father’s right hand, in honor, as many have said, of the world’s first martyr for the Lord. This sustained him through the painful trial that soon followed. God will sustain us as well through any suffering the world may have in store. He is able and will do it.
#I especially like the Complete Jewish Bible’s rendering of this verse:
“So welcome each other, just as the Messiah has welcomed you into God’s glory.”, which points to the fact that it is our participation in the glory of God that enables us to extend love and acceptance to others.