The Power of Acceptance
Towards the end of his time with his disciples Jesus told them something that would carry them through the rest of their lives, come “hell or high-water” they would have these words to stabilize themselves: “You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” 1 Chosen! Chosen! Chosen?
How did they qualify to be chosen? By daring to act on the revelation they received!
Matthew had been a hated tax collector and he was probably quite wealthy but when Jesus invited him to leave it all to follow him, he didn’t hesitate. He saw and he willingly followed. Faith collided with his life and he rearranged his life to fit; he chose the way of faith and now the master of faith had chosen him. It still works like that. If we won’t modify our lives to accommodate our faith we never get to be chosen. We must do something with the things shown to us or their true value escapes us. It is likely the other disciples weren’t exactly excited about Matthew joining them. They had opinions about paying taxes and stronger opinions about thieving tax collectors! Tax collectors were the lackeys of the Roman occupiers! Despised traitors!
But Matthew had been personally called and he willingly responded. Here was someone who accepted him (warts and all) and the knowledge of that acceptance gave him the desire to change now. So he did. He began the process of discovering himself, of becoming the person God intended him to be.
Our insight is that the acceptance offered by Jesus released in him the ability to be transformed. He had lived his life with others rejecting and opposing him and all that had done was lock him on the trail that was so displeasing to them. They gave him no alternative. When Jesus came along, instead of criticism he offered acceptance; instead of rejection we find invitation. Where is the passage in the gospels that shows Jesus openly criticizing and castigating tax collectors? Does that mean he agreed with what they did and condoned it? We find him partying with them, we find him encouraging them in reform, we find them abandoning their ill-gotten gains as Zacchaeus and Matthew did, and undergoing enormous personal transformation with very little prompting, and in each case the key was that Jesus accepted them as people. He didn’t condone their actions but nor did he ostracize them. There’s power in acceptance.
“Zacchaeus, come down from that tree, tonight I’m dining at your place!” 2
“Matthew, come on, leave it all behind, you’re coming with me!” 3
And in both cases an incredible transformation followed.
Jesus’ approach contrasts with that of many Christians when they encounter someone who in their opinion is far from God and doing immoral and objectionable things. The default is to immediately move to rejection and judgment, castigation and isolation. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what Jesus did? The Pharisees did that, the religious people were harsh and thorough in their rejection. But Jesus reached out to them as people, caring, accepting. As we apply faith in our lives, what gives us the license to ignore his methods and substitute those used by the religious people – especially since their methods had failed so miserably while Jesus’ method showed astounding success?
We wrestle with fear that our acceptance of a person condones their actions and lifestyle, when that isn’t really so. Acceptance of the person is critical and that acceptance gives them freedom to acknowledge that their lifestyle needs modification (as if they weren’t already aware of that!) and then it gives them the support base they need to effect the change. When we demand the change before accepting the person we deny them the support network needed for change and (surprise, surprise) we wonder why they act like we have rejected them. Why can’t they reach the impossible standards we impose on them?!! We must come to our senses! That’s not even close to what Jesus did, that’s not the Gospel! Instead of being “Good News” that’s “Incredibly Bad News.” Who wants to hear that?
Years before, Isaiah had told the people God had created and formed, “Don’t be afraid because I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be there with you; when you cross through rivers, they will not sweep you away. When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned.” 4
- God deliberately created and formed me
- God has bought my freedom
- He has called me – specifically and by name, there’s no mistake
- I belong to him and he values me
- Life does and will continue to involve difficulties I’d prefer to avoid
- God will be there protecting and preserving me
When we start with that foundation, it changes how we see ourselves.
1 John 15; 2 Luke 19; 3 Matthew 9; 4 Isaiah 43.
Posted on August 17, 2011, in Self-awareness and tagged acceptance, Christianity, friendship, Good news gospel, hated outcasts, Jesus, power to change, Religionand spirituality, transformation. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.