Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I have been thinking about acceptance and how it impacts our relationships. Ponder these intentionally vague and broad questions:
Are you acceptable?
How do you respond when you think or sense you are not acceptable to someone?
Are you accepting?
How does your not accepting someone impact your relationship with them?
Are you accepted?
How do you respond when you think or sense you are not accepted by someone?
To a large extent our relationships are defined by acceptance and our perception of whether we are accepted or not.
Acceptance is defined by the English dictionary as;1
the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.
the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
agreement with or belief in an idea, opinion, or explanation.
The opposite2 of accepting is to decline, deny, disallow, disapprove, negate, refuse, reject, spurn, turn down, and veto.
Other words that are related to not accepting are blacklist, censure, condemn, criticize, damn, denounce, deprecate, depreciate, disparage, reprehend, reprobate, dislike, detest, hate, loathe, dissent (from), object (to), oppose . . .
It should be clear that acceptance bring unity and closeness while lack of acceptance brings division and separation.
Acceptance in Our Relationship With God
In our relationship toward God before salvation we were unacceptable because of our sin. However, in Christ we are accepted because, by God's grace, we are 100% acceptable. Those who still seek acceptance from God through their own effort and works are unable to have peace that comes from knowing that they are acceptable and accepted. The reliance on God's grace for acceptance, rather than our works, is what gives us peace, joy, rest, and open access in our relationship with God.
The Role of Acceptance in Our Relationship With One Another
We cannot always control whether we are accepted or acceptable to other, but we can control whether we accept them and how we respond when we do not feel accepted.
As followers of the Lord Jesus we are to be accepting of one another. For example, even when we may have differing perspectives on some things there is to be acceptance.
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. (Romans 14:1)
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.(Romans 15:7)
Acceptance is an extension of love for one another. It is possible to love and accept someone even though we do not approve of their behaviors or agree with them. This means we are open and welcoming to them even while we hold to standards that exceed their performance (as well as our own). We accept one another by God's grace to the glory of God as God in Christ has accepted us.
One of the great challenges is to communicate acceptance when a person's actions are clearly unacceptable to us and to God. There is an inescapable tension. When someone considers our actions unacceptable, or when they disagree with us, we think they are rejecting us as an individual . . . and perhaps they are. Likewise, when we view someone's behavior unacceptable (because it is), they feel as if we reject them, and we may be if we are not careful.
As Christians we cannot lower expectations to the lowest common denominator in order to help people feel acceptable and accepted. It is common for us to equate acceptance of the individual to condoning or even endorsing their actions. However, we can accept a person without condoning or endorsing their sin. It takes thoughtfulness and care to communicate this type of love and acceptance and sometimes it takes a good deal of time. Yet this is what God expects of us.
On the other hand, as we relate to one another, we need to understand that someone's disagreement with our actions is not necessarily their rejection of us. Just because someone does not agree, condone, or endorse what you do, does not mean they reject you.
Apart from the grace of God relationships are extremely fragile. With the grace of God, relationships are still delicate and easily bruised. We need to take care to be accepting of one another, work hard at communicating that acceptance, and resist falling into the trap that just because someone disagrees with us or disapproves of something we do or have done, that they do not accept us.
Consider the effort and length God went to in order that we might be accepted by Him in securing our salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. May our love and gratitude toward God be reflected in our relationships toward one another.
Serving with joy,
Here are some other related texts for further study if you would like.
Romans Chapter 14:1-15:14
Romans 12:1-3, 14-21