Acceptance


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You may have seen those Christian bumper stickers  that say, “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven” or “Christians are not sinless. They just sin less.”

Though there are those who abuse those sayings by using it as a license to sin, the theology behind it is sound. Indeed, grace is God’s unmerited favor to us. We can’t deserve it. We don’t deserve it. Yet, still God gave it to us. He did not wait for us to be perfect to accept us. Grace is free but it is not cheap. It came with the costly price tag. By His atoning death on the cross, we receive forgiveness when we put our faith in our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. It’s free to us but costly to God. 
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
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However, even if we enjoyed grace for our salvation, we tend to look for perfection and sinlessness in ourselves, in our loved ones and in our fellow believers. We also end up become judgmental and have this “holier-than-thou” attitude towards those who have yet to believe in the Lord. Thus, admittedly we become hard to live with. 

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People tend to walk in egg shells when we are around. They resent that we expect perfection from there. Sadly, they reject our Lord because they see our hypocrisy because we don’t also have what we expect from them. We are not perfect. We are not sinless. 
If perfection actually happens at the moment we believe in Christ as our Savior, then why in the world is the New Testament filled with the importance of obeying God after salvation? Why does it teach about forgiving one another, understanding each one's failures, accepting their cracks, and focusing on their strengths (few though they may be)? It’s one thing for unbelievers to expect perfection—I can live with their expectation and tolerate it fairly well—but it’s most disconcerting to be pushed into a perfection mold by fellow Christian brothers and sisters! … Paralysis sets in when we struggle to breathe in the choking context of the perfection-expectation syndrome. Fed by fear and guilt, the Christian becomes a victim of fellow Christians rather than a victor in Christ. [1]
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Acceptance. That’s what we need to learn. As Ruth Graham once said about her husband, evangelist Billy Graham, “It's my job to love Billy. It's God’s job to make him good.” It’s our job to love people. It’s God’s job to make them good. Let’s not reverse the order. We can’t make people good. Only God can do that. We can encourage or we can exert pressure. But we can’t force them to be good. We can only accept and grow with them in God’s grace. That doesn’t mean we will be tolerant of sins. But that does mean we will not be judgmental. 

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Christ Jesus never did that with those around Him. When people were near Him, there was incredible magnetism because of His absence of unrealistic expectations, subtle demands, and manipulative devices. Rather than using pressure tactics, He simply accepted people as they were. … Let's back off! Let's relax the stranglehold on each other. Let's allow the Lord to do the correcting and the finger-pointing and the demanding and the judging. Let's grow up and stop being so nitpicking and condemning. [2]
As Romans 15:7 commanded us, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (NIV)

“Grace” Step

Reflect on Romans 15:7. What makes it hard for us to accept one another, or as in Charles Swindoll’s words, to forgive one another, to understand each one's failures, to accept their cracks, and to focus on their strengths? How do we express acceptance just as Christ accepted us?

NOTE: This is Day Five of the devotional guide (Volume 1, Issue 9) of our church, Filinvest Community Christian Fellowship, for the message on Pass It On! (Part 4)” last April 26.

[1]  Charles Swindoll (2013), “How to Stop Expecting Perfection,” Insight for Living Ministry, retrieved from http://www.insight.org/. Emphasis added.

[2] Ibid. Emphasis added.

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