Therefore, accept each other...
Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.
[Romans 15:7 NLT]
What a beautiful statement from Paul. It's simple, yet so complex. It makes perfect sense, yet we all fail at it from time to time. And if we are being really honest with ourselves, then we realize we need to up our game in the "accepting others" arena. Passing judgement is easy. Withholding judgement or moving past pre-judgement is difficult. Sticking to the friends and acquaintances we know is comfortable. Branching out to reach those who we don't know so well is uncomfortable. Being vulnerable is scary. Connecting with someone deemed as a "loner" is hard. If it was easy, then it wouldn't be an issue we need to address. I wish it wasn't true, but it is. It is true in my life, and it is true in your life. And that is a sad reality in our society and culture today.
Guess what? It was a sad reality in Jesus' day, too! He met the outcasts in their sorrow, their bitterness, their pain. He experienced this sad reality in a very major way. I think too often we write-off the Bible as too far in the past. That it isn't as relevant to us nowadays. It's outdated. I'm here to tell you THAT IS A LIE. That is the devil trying to discount the Word of God. Jesus experienced rejection -- he witnessed it in those he ministered to, and he experienced it deep in his own heart. He genuinely cared for, taught, and befriended those most despised, looked down on, and cast out in his time - tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, Gentiles, Roman soldiers, Samaritans, and so on. Did Jesus cast these people aside or tell them to come back later? No! He put aside his own needs and comfort, and he had compassion for them. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [Matthew 9:36 NIV] This realization hits me hard. Do I truly have compassion for others in my day-to-day life? Sure, I express it at times, but I am far from being moved by compassion for others as Jesus is.
Now look at Jesus himself. His closest friends and followers denied him and scattered, fell asleep as he urged them to stay awake and pray, and had minds plagued by doubt and unbelief. His own town couldn't accept his ministry and teaching fully, and his own disciple sold him into the hands of those who hated him. He had people who chose to keep their distance from him end up spitting on him, mocking him, driving him out of towns, beating him, and crucifying him. He experienced separation from the Father as he took on ALL of our sins! I can't imagine how dark that experience had to be.
Jesus got it. Jesus still gets it. He knows rejection and not being accepted better than any of us can ever understand. So I reiterate, The Word is still relevant. Jesus is still relevant!
Let's look at this passage again, this time with a little broader scope:
May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote:
“For this, I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing praises to your name.”
[Romans 15:5-9 NLT]
I pull three main ideas from this passage. Three vital components to my faith walk and to your faith walk:
1. Be One
We are taught in this passage that as Christians we are to be in complete harmony with each other and to join together with one voice. This means doing all we can to live peaceably with one another, even in our disagreements. Living in peace doesn't mean ignoring your feelings or discounting your view. It doesn't mean you are the best of friends with every single person you meet. It means understanding the way God tells us to live and acting out of that same love and acceptance He shows us. It means accepting one another, even when others might seem kinda weird to you. Their weirdness is beautiful to God. He created them, and He created you. He loves and accepts them, just as He loves and accepts you.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
[Philippians 2:1-4 NIV]
2. Point to God
Paul mentions repeatedly how being accepting of one another points to God. We give glory to God and lift our praise to Him in our actions of love, acceptance, harmony, and unity. The glory of God will radiate from us as a whole and individually as we proclaim and show the acceptance of Christ. When people exude love and authenticity, don't you just want to be a part of that? When hatred is spewed, don't you feel yourself spiraling downward as you take part in that? What we say and do points to something. How cool that we get countless opportunities to point the world to Jesus Christ and the love of our awesome Heavenly Father! Writing this makes me think of the song Point To You by We Are Messengers:
I can't forget from where I've come And what my heart's been rescued from Yeah when they ask me who I owe my whole life to I point to You
I love that! Our WHOLE lives should point to our Creator, our Savior, our Good Father!
3. Follow the Example of Christ
As always, we should follow the example of Jesus. He laid out a perfect example for us and how we should live in union with God and His people. This passage tells us that Christ came for two huge reasons. He came as a servant to prove God's promises true, and he came so that people might give glory to God for His mercies, which He showers on us freely. Living like Christ means feeling compassion for others, all others, and acting on that compassion whenever it is in your power to do so. God will go with you into that unknown, that scary situation, that discomfort, and He will hold you up with his unfailing love and strength. So let's serve and accept others and turn the praise and glory to our Father in Heaven!
When we are full, we are able to overflow into the lives of others. When we allow the God of hope to fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, then we are able to overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. [see what I did there? make scripture personal and see the amazing impact it has on you].
What does hope look like when it pours out from us? It looks like acceptance. It feels like love. It soothes like peace. It beams like joy. Let the hope of Christ radiate from your entire being!
Walk in love. Walk in acceptance. Why? Because God loved us enough to do just that for us.
I love you all!
Upcoming MTC Happenings
Spring Program runs M,T,W,Th from February 26th through May 24th!
All MTC community families are welcomed!
This one is for our adult friends only (21+ years old and up)!