“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
The command here is to accept others the way Christ Jesus accepted us. Uh-huh, that’s a tall order to ask of mere human beings. Not to mention, navigating the tightrope of living as a Christian in a multicultural society.
If you think about it, we only have two choices: accept people or reject them.
Jesus was a human relational magnet. He accepted people unconditionally and indiscriminately. It didn’t matter what their gender was, it didn’t matter their race, didn’t matter their political position. He was a magnet. Why was He a magnet? Why did everyone want to be around Jesus?
Jesus didn’t judge them by their mere appearance. He didn’t condemn them. He didn’t shun sinners. In fact, He warmly welcomed sinners, letting them know that they mattered and yet telling them truthfully, “Your sin is not acceptable.” Please don’t miss that last sentence. There are many behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs Christ did not accept. What Jesus did accept was the person.
Jesus chose to accept others and He expects us to follow His lead.
The use of the word “to accept” in the Romans passage literally means “to receive and grant one access to one’s heart. To take and receive into one’s home.” If we want to learn how to accept people, we need to study the life of Jesus and seek to accept as He did. Now, did He approve of it all? No. Did He always agree with what people were saying and doing? No. But He always accepted the person.
He welcomed them, warmly into a relationship with Him and then He spoke the truth in love. That’s what we are to do. Now, accepting a person does not mean we accept, tolerate or condone their sinful behavior. That is not what Christ did. He loved them and so must we. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Sometimes well-meaning Christians tell people that they have to “clean up their lives” before God will accept them, or before the church will accept them, but that is not what we see in Scripture.
Let’s take a look at two examples of how Jesus dealt with the sinners He encountered (sinners include us all!). When speaking to the woman at the well, who was living with a man she was not married to (John 4:1-26), Jesus did not reject her. Instead, He addressed the fact of her sin, then offered her the salvation she needed.
When the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) was brought before Jesus, He did not reject her. He told her, “Go, and sin no more.” Notice, the sin was never excused or ignored, but forgiveness was offered to anyone who recognized his sin and was willing to confess and forsake it. God certainly expects us to leave our sin, but that comes as a part of our salvation, not as a prerequisite.
You see, when we criticize or condemn someone, we communicate rejection.
Whenever we reject someone it like we have made ourselves their judge—something only God is qualified to do. The Bible tells us God alone is the righteous judge. However, we are given directives of godly judgment for other believers. Yes, we are cautioned to “judge at our own risk” (stay tuned for next Monday’s post: To Judge or Not to Judge).
Similarly, when we try to change someone, it conveys they are not got enough.
It is not our responsibility to change anyone. And quite frankly, we are not capable of changing anyone but ourselves. You might ask, “but what if that person really needs to change?” Changing a person is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our Christian responsibility is to introduce others to the only One who is capable of changing hearts and minds.
I love this quote by C.S. Lewis, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but dead people live.” No one but Jesus can make a dead person live! If it wasn’t Christ’s mission to make bad people good, then why in the world do so many Christians behave in this manner?
If you are not accepting someone, you are rejecting them—and that is sin.
I am certainly not the same person today as I was when I accepted Christ and He, in turn, accepted me. Are you?
Dear ones, we live amongst hurting people who are desperate to find real love and acceptance. And quite frankly, much of “the church” has failed miserably at demonstrating this kind of Christ-like love—possibly a major reason we see such disdain for Christians in our culture today. As Christ’s ambassadors, the best way to represent Jesus is to give to others what has been given to us: ACCEPTANCE, LOVE, AND GRACE.
REFLECTION: What is your understanding of the biblical meaning for accepting others the way Christ did? On a scale from one to ten (ten being the highest), how would you score yourself on acceptance of others? How do you think Christ would score you?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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