Last night we were invited to the Chinese community celebration of Hong Kong (ten years since it was released from British rule), which meant a silent auction, table prizes, several speeches, some unique entertainment, and a fancy, sit-down dinner (served, not buffet).
While most in attendance were Chinese, and several flew from Hong Kong just to be at this celebration, the guests also included our city mayor, city officials, and many Caucasian business people. The cast of the Chinese opera were all Chinese except one, who was introduced with a chuckle and said not to have “one drop of Chinese blood” in her. One of the drummers for the Dragon dance was very black, two more were white. The mix, and even that we were invited, suggests that these Chinese Canadians know how to become part of their community. No one made us feel out of place.
The church is supposed to be like that too. Paul wrote, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
“Accept one another” is in the present imperative tense. That means it is saying, “Keep on accepting or receiving one another.” It is supposed to be an ongoing, positive part of the Christ life.
I’m not sure of all the reasons why the Hong Kong celebrations included a variety of people, but I do know that in the church, our model and reason for accepting one another is the Lord Jesus. He accepted us.
Jesus received me when I was not only powerless but also ungodly, a sinner and an enemy of God. The Bible says, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
One of my commentaries says, “Certainly Christians can receive others who differ with them on nonessential matters.” That statement isn’t what the Bible says, at least I don’t see any strings attached to the commands about accepting one another. Jesus didn’t attach any ‘yea, buts’ when He accepted me, or ask me to do anything to make myself acceptable. He loves me and took me into His kingdom, warts and all. The old hymn, Just As I Am, is the biblical standard.
Yet there is a ‘yea, but’ in the love of God. He loves and accepts people just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way. His love could never leave me ungodly, a sinner, and His enemy. Those things are harmful and lead to death. To take care of the ‘enemy’ part, He sent Jesus to die for me. Giving me the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ takes care of the rest. So in love, He accepted me, but in love, He does not leave me helpless—He grants me His power to overcome sin.
That same power of God produces a biblical acceptance of others. Sure, I can do some of it without God. I can accept people of other nationalities, those with different interests, and languages, even those who do not think like I think. But my acceptance soon fades if they begin to treat me like sinners treat God. That is, if they reject me, push aside all that I think and am, mock everything I say, are totally uninterested and apathetic, and do things that demonstrate an “I don’t want you in my life” attitude, my acceptance begins to fade.
When those things happen, I can’t do it. I need Jesus to ‘keep on accepting.’ Without Him, I soon forget the patience He had with me when I was doing the same things.