We are born with an innate desire to be accepted. We want others to like us, to befriend us, to laugh at our jokes. We want to be included. Early on, that may look like having someone to sit with in the school cafeteria. Later, maybe it's having a date for homecoming or prom. Then comes being accepted into our preferred college or being landing what we've decided is the ideal job (which means fitting in with a whole new group of people.) To fit in, we present our best selves -- at least at first. We select those outfits that give us the most confidence. We're careful to be charming, engaging, intelligent, and appropriately funny to make the best impression.
That feeling of being accepted is satisfying. Until it's not. Until we're not. Relationships are challenging. Sometimes, for all of our preparation, we don't make a good first impression. We say the wrong thing, or the right thing at the wrong time. We're misunderstood and we misunderstand. We have unmet expectations, we don't listen like we should. We make inerrant assumptions. We can't perform to someone else's standards. We're blamed for things outside of our control. We let our emotions get the best of us and say things we don't mean. We're hurt. We hurt others.
All of that -- the need to always be our best, the rifts caused by unrealistic expectations and hurt -- can become a heavy burden. But, it's a burden we don't have to carry in our relationship with Christ. What a relief it is that we don't have to impress the One who loves us and knows us best. Our acceptance by God isn't based on works or performance or being a certain type of person, it's based on faith in Him..
Using Abraham as an example, Paul explains in Romans Chapter 4 that we don't have to earn God's favor. (Spoiler alert: we can't. It's not possible to be "good enough.")
(2)If his [Abraham's] good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. (3)For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
(4)When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. (5)But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, God has seen us at our very worst. He sees what we try so hard to hide from everyone else. He sees our motives and thoughts. He sees the disappointments and the dreams we don't share with anyone. In fact, he understands us better than we understand ourselves! He created us, after all. When we don't understand why we feel or respond in certain ways, why we constantly deal with the same issue(s) over and over, why we keep doing what we know we shouldn't, why certain people and situations are a challenge for us, He does. He gets it. He gets us. He gets all of our "why's". He loves us anyway. He chose us anyway. He accepts us anyway.
Our affirmation of acceptance in Romans 15:7 is also an admonition. Because we are accepted by Christ, we should also accept others. Look back at the beginning of Chapter 15. Paul is exhorting the church to live in harmony.
(5)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. (6)Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (7)Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.
I can't think of a message believers need more during these divisive days than to accept one another, live in harmony, join together in one voice to praise and glorify our Father. "As is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus." Even if that convicts you today (it certainly does me!), be encouraged. For all of our junk, God accepts us and makes us righteous because of our faith in Him. And, He calls us to do the same for others. Pray for one another. Encourage one another. Love one another. Accept one another.
Scripture from the New Living Translation.