Accept One Another

By Scarlett Stough

Food matters. What we eat matters. Starving people know that. Unhealthy people find that out. Magazine articles tell us what foods will protect us against cancer, what foods will slow the aging process, and even what foods will promote a healthy weight. Even the Bible weighs in on what foods are good to eat. But the Bible also reminds us that we are mortal. We do age. We do die. From the perspective of eternity, our relationships matter more than our food and drink or fasting choices matter (Romans Chapters 14 and 15.)

Just as what we eat either nourishes us or poisons us, so what we think and do either nourishes or poisons us spiritually. The apostle Paul wrote, “…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…(Romans 15:17.)”

As the early church grew in numbers and diversity, so did conflicts, factions, and beliefs contrary to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. In spite of the apostles efforts to turn people’s minds and hearts to being unified in their common faith in Jesus Christ, disunity, quarreling, factions and disharmony has continued to be the norm into our present day. Is there a remedy?

For those willing to follow the directions there is (Matthew 7:13-14.) Jesus never promised an easy life. The “easy” yoke of Matthew 11:30 is equipment for work and even though the “burden is light,” it is still a weight of responsibility to be carried. The most difficult part of that responsibility is resisting the self-preservation of the natural tendency to do it “my way” (Matthew 7:21-23) or worse yet, to quit when life requires tough choices (Luke 9:62.)

How often do we follow Jesus’ teaching to “pray for those who persecute you?” How often do we do as Jesus said to do, “…forgive men when they sin against you?” How about Paul’s tough love command: “Expel the wicked man from among you (I Corinthians 5:13?)”

In our churches we seem to see-saw back and forth between harshness perceived as discipline and permissiveness mistaken for mercy and grace. If we organize under a hierarchy, we end up following men and their rules instead of our Lord and his teachings. If we gather together without structure, we fall apart through refusal to “submit one to another.” If we decide it’s not worth trying and go it alone, we lose the encouragement and accountability coming from regular assembly with others.

Is there an answer? The only possible one is repentance and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us into the practice of righteousness, peace and joy. We have to let go of pride in what we think we have and know (Revelation 3:17) and the lust for position, possessions and pleasures (I John 2:15-17.) We have to get real with God. He sees through all our masks and pretenses. Most people can as well. We deceive no one but ourselves.

We can’t change all at once, overnight, but we can make those first stumbling baby steps. Start with your spouse---submit one to another (Ephesians 5:21). Not married? Start with your neighbor. Start what?--Bearing a burden for someone else (Galatians 6:2.) Follow an inclination to do good for someone else within your means and as you have opportunity (Galatians 6:10.)

Do the right thing even if it’s unpopular. Make peace and create joy where you are now. Build your relationships based on respect and compassion, free of ungodly judgments. Build unity where you can. Take a risk; be a living sacrifice. Be a saint.

Take to heart Paul’s prayer to the church at Rome:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:5-7)

Unity can thrive only when we accept one another as Jesus has accepted us. This doesn’t mean “anything goes.” It does mean we give each other room to grow and stop making it more difficult than it needs to be. It means we work on developing righteousness, peace and joy within ourselves and as an environment for others. Our purpose for unity is to praise God, illustrating by our lives God is worthy to be praised, worshipped, and obeyed. Unity can not be forced; it develops through loving actions and attitudes.

 

Volume 10 Issue 5 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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