“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” Romans 15:7a (NIV)
How does God accept you? A songwriter put it like this “He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.” He accepts me by grace and mercy. By God’s grace, I get what I don’t deserve – forgiveness. By His mercy, I don’t get what I do deserve – judgment. Behind it all is an everlasting love He has for me. Romans 5:8 says,
“God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)
Sometimes, we confuse acceptance with approval. We may think that since He accepts me, He must approve of my behavior. If that were true, there would be no need for grace and mercy – would there? He would not have had to die for the sins of the world if acceptance meant approval. There would be nothing in us that met with enough disapproval to warrant such a drastic measure.
The best illustration of this is found in the encounter Jesus had with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders, with stones in their hands, were ready to hurl them at her. You remember the rest of the story. When pressured for a response to condemn the woman, Jesus said,
“If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (NIV)
One by one, they each dropped their rocks and left until it was just Jesus and this guilty woman. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus, the only one qualified to throw rocks at her, didn’t? Instead, He accepted her, even in her sinful condition. He asked her where her accusers were. When she said there were none left, Jesus replied,
“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” (V.11)
What an example of the difference between acceptance and approval. In His great love, God accepts us just as we are – warts and all. But, He loves us too much to leave us that way. He empowers us by His Spirit to change. Have you been confusing acceptance with approval? What about in your relationship with others? Do you accept those whose lifestyles may not meet with your approval and extend the grace to them that Jesus does to you?
“How grateful I am, God, that you accept me just as I am. You didn’t wait for me to clean up my act to offer me a new beginning. Even before I accepted you as my personal Savior from sin, You accepted me and demonstrated Your love for me by offering Your Son as a sacrifice for my sins. Help me to demonstrate Your love to others with that same acceptance.”