Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15: 5-7)
In this week’s message we looked at the tale of two broken women. The woman who was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus, and the woman who entered Simon the Pharisee’s house and washed his feet with her tears.
A deep realisation of how forgiven we are, how our shame has been dealt with, how much God has loved us – enables us and frees us to love others.
If I cannot love others well, I have not accepted and experienced God’s love for me.
As I feel loved, I reach out to others in love.
We struggle to love and accept others if we have too much pain in our hearts and have not really known the embrace of God’s love.
There is no room in Jesus’ community for throwing stones. We are all too broken. Philip Yancey says that Jesus’ audience would have divided people into two categories: sinners (like the woman) and the righteous (like the men). Yet Jesus in one brilliant stroke replaces them with two different categories: sinners who admit, and sinners who deny.
If you have no sin – go ahead and cast the first stone.
We are called to put down our stones.
Jesus calls us to be salt – not vinegar!
How can we be more accepting of each other?
1) Accepting others does not mean tolerating bad behaviour
“People sometimes think acceptance means an abused wife has to tolerate whatever suffering her spouse chooses to damage her with; that a concerned friend must watch in silence as her friend makes choices that will wreck their life. Accepting another human being does not mean we refuse to confront or challenge that in them that could harm others and damage their soul.” (John Ortberg)
2) We need to be conduits of God’s love with the help of the Holy Spirit
The fruit of the Spirit in our life is love.
“We should not have to strain and struggle to reach out to one another with this kind of acceptance. When we look at a branch bearing fruit we would never say, “Wow look at the effort of that branch! It must be working hard to produce that fruit. The branch is able to bear fruit because it is attached to the vine, not because of its effort.” (James Bryan Smith)
Apart from God, we cannot truly love each other.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. As Thomas Merton says: the chief function of the Holy Spirit is to “make us live by that love and experience it in our hearts.”
“He has poured out his love into our hearts by his Holy Spirit.” (Romans 5:5)
3) We need to focus on what people are rather than what they are not
“A large part of acceptance is letting people be who they are, with all of their uniqueness, all of their beauty, all of their flaws.” (James Bryan Smith)
Try to catch people doing something right.
Try to understand their story.
Know that there is a lot that you don’t know.
Recognise in each other the image of God.
“This…we can attain, if we are careful not to dwell on the evil which men do, but rather to look upon the image of God which they bear, and whose worth and dignity can – and should – move us to love them and to bury their faults which might otherwise repel us.” (Calvin – Institutes)
Affirm one another’s strengths, abilities and gifts.
“Honour one another” (Romans 12:10)
“Don’t grumble against each other” (James 5:9)
Confirm the gifts of one another (Romans 12:3-8)