Accepting another person doesn’t necessarily mean accepting their beliefs or practices.
Accepting someone whose beliefs or practices aren’t the same as mine isn’t easy. Growing up, I was taught that Sunday was a sacred day. The most Mom could do was cook Sunday lunch. No washing clothes, working in the yard, or going to the store. The day was reserved for attending church and resting. Seeing someone cutting their grass or working in the yard on Sunday was unusual. Could I accept such a person? Or what about the person who didn’t have the same philosophy about child rearing, dancing, playing cards, music, manner of dress, or mode of baptism? Then there’s the person who doesn’t even share my faith…and doesn’t want too.
Paul is specifically referring to acceptance among believers. The plethora of denominations is a witness that believers don’t agree on a number of things. Divisions within denominations show there is even disagreement among likeminded believers. Acceptance was even a problem in the first century church. Was it acceptable to eat meat that had been used in pagan rituals?
I should accept all people because they are God’s creations. They are made in his image, loved by him, and have the potential to be used by him. Accepting them, however, doesn’t mean I have to accept their beliefs or copy their actions. Acceptance is not approval.
When I allow pride into my life, I’ll reject others instead of accepting them. Thinking I’m better than they are because I follow God or because my brand of spiritual living is better than theirs. Beliefs I was taught in childhood by well-meaning parents can easily take me to this level. Maybe the person who went to the store on Sunday wasn’t a bad person after all. Perhaps they had a better understanding of spiritual freedom than I did. Misunderstanding God’s love can lead me to avoid others rather than accept them. God loves all; he doesn’t accept all their actions.
I can accept others without accepting their opinions or lifestyles. What barrier do you need to tear down so you can accept others as God does?
Prayer: Father, help us to see others as You do and love them as You do.
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