Summary: We are to accept one another in Christ
I believe most of us are young enough to remember Karen Carpenter. One of her well-loved songs is “Love Me For What I Am.” The chorus goes like this: “You’ve got to love me / For what I am / For simply being me / Don’t love me / For what you intend / Or hope that I will be.” It seems to me those are not just lyrics to a song. It appears she struggled with acceptance. One time she lamented, “We spent an awful lot of time trying to achieve perfection as close as we can come. It’s the foremost thing in our minds, at all times.” She died at a very young age of 32 due to complications related to an eating disorder. Someone wrote, “She was sweet, but kept her emotions inside. She was the kind of person who would take care of other people, but not herself. They called her a living skull, and a tormented and unhappy woman.” Rejection can be fatal.
In his book “Connecting,” Dr. Larry Crabb wrote that we experience God’s power to heal souls through our compassionate, authentic relationships with others. “What every Christian can pour into another is the powerful passion of acceptance, a passion that flows out of the center of the gospel, a passion that fills the heart of God.” That’s why we are commanded in Romans 15:7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Every “one another” command has a context. This time, “accept one another” fits Romans 14:1 to 15:13. For this month, based on this passage, we will talk about “Accepting the ‘Different’”. I came up with an acronym, A-C-C-E-P-T. This morning, we will focus on the first point, ACCEPT one another in Christ.
The verb “Accept” means “to receive wholeheartedly, to warmly welcome them to yourself, to grant admission into your heart, to look beyond anything superficial and to be willing and open to build relationships.” In short, to love people just as they are, not for what we intend or hope that they would be. According to David Ferguson’s “Never Alone Church,” “We all have a deep relational need for others to accept us for who we are”. It’s not only Karen Carpenter who longed for acceptance. Let me cite two more. Madonna is called by the Guinness Book of Records as the “World’s Most Successful Female Musician.” According to Forbes magazine, she is the top earning female singer in the world with an estimated net worth of over $325 million. But she lamented in Vogue magazine, “My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. That’s always been pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become somebody, I still have to prove that I’m SOMEBODY. My struggle has never ended, and it probably never will.” Oprah Winfrey is ranked as the richest African American woman of the 20th century and, some even say, the most influential woman in the world. But she confessed that, “I discovered I didn’t feel worth a damn, and certainly not worthy of love, unless I was accomplishing something. I suddenly realized I have never felt I could be loved just for being.”
If this is a vital relational need, how come we find it hard to accept one another? How come instead of accepting each other, we end up judging one another? First, we judge people based on extra-biblical standards. We could not accept a person due to issues that are not really biblical. Romans 14:1 says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” The Message version goes like this, “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with”. (I think I just heard some of the parents say, “Ouch!”) We tend to draw the line where it should not be drawn. We major on the minor. There are some things that are not matters of principles but only preferences. For example, there are churches that divide over the choice of music or the use of certain instruments such as drums. Some like it fast. Others like it slow. I believe it’s more a matter of taste than a matter of theology. That’s why we are to CONCENTRATE on the essentials. We will talk about it more next time.
Second, we judge based on external appearance. We find it hard to accept others just because they look, they talk, they dress and they act differently. James 2:1-4 strongly condemns this attitude: “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” There’s a sad observation that the rich tends to attract the rich and the poor tends to attract the poor. Somehow, getting the rich and the poor together in a church seems like mixing oil and water. One of our deacons had a chance to talk to Pastor Ed Lapiz of Day by Day Ministries. He asked how come the rich and the poor could sit comfortable together in his church. Pastor Ed said, “Let the church become the church of the Lord.”