Accepting One Another

God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me!

Earlier this year, I read Max Lucado’s book, How Happiness Happens, with a group of women at my new church. I bought the study guide that goes with the video study though we didn’t watch it. I found some thought provoking questions in the study guide: Whom would you consider your “opposite you”? How do you typically interact with this person?

Bear with one another in love

If you’ve ever struggled to deal with someone who is your opposite, you know how difficult it is to accept the differences. I consider my boss my opposite me. I’m an introvert; he’s an extrovert. I prefer to communicate by email; he prefers to talk on the phone. I’m responsive to emails; he ignores them. I get things done timely, even early; he procrastinates and does things at the last minute. I could go on and on about how his opposite of me ways get on my nerves.

I am outwardly patient with the opposite me but it has been a struggle. I accept that I can’t change him; I’ve tried. I have no choice but to bear with him. I resent him for not being a person I can depend on. And yet, I can also tell you that he is a friendly, lighthearted, and positive person. He shows his appreciation and is contrite when he lets me down.

It is easy for me to focus on character flaws and personality differences and to ignore strengths and positive attributes. Lucado devoted a chapter of How Happiness Happens to pet peeves. When we focus too much on pet peeves, we’re the ones who suffer. Our reaction to these annoyances robs us of our joy. It is not enough to bear with each other. We must do so in complete humility and love.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

Speak the truth in love

How do you deal with the person with which you fundamentally disagree?

It is often best to keep your mouth shut when you disagree. Choose your battles. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Having said that, there have been times I’ve wished that I had spoken up when someone in my church small group said something fundamentally inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus did not hesitate to call out religious people who “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Jesus did not hesitate to say something to those who “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (Matthew 23:13). He was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). When we speak the truth in love, we help others to grow.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:15

Accept one another, as Christ accepted you

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice 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

What does it mean to accept one another as Christ accepted you? Christ accepts us just as we are, sinful and imperfect. Just as he saw the potential in sinners and in his own imperfect disciples, he sees the potential in every one of us. His love is not conditional.

What’s the difference between accepting someone and tolerating someone?

To me, the word tolerate has negative connotations. It means enduring or putting up with someone or something unpleasant or disliked. No one wants to endure someone or something unpleasant. It takes effort. Tolerating another person often comes with a grudging or resentful attitude.

In contrast, the word accept is positive. Acceptance is consenting to receive or to take something to oneself. To accept is to welcome. To accept another person is to treat them as if they matter.

Think about what it feels like to not be accepted. It feels like rejection. It feels like being excluded. It feels like you don’t matter to the person who won’t accept you unconditionally.

We often refuse to accept another person as they are, without judgment, because we think they should change – to be more like us. But none of us is perfect. God doesn’t ask us to fix other people. We are called to accept them as they are and to entrust them to the Redeemer, to the One who can change them.

What does it mean to have the same attitude of mind that Jesus had? Christ Jesus, even though he is one with God, humbled himself and served others.

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5-8

Lord, thank you for accepting me and loving me just as I am, flawed and in need of redemption. I confess that I have not always accepted others as You accepted me. Humble me and help me to have the same attitude of mind toward others that You have. Help me to stop worrying about a speck of dust in another’s eye while ignoring a log in my own. Give me the wisdom to see the ways I let You down. Help me to see and appreciate the potential in others and to bear with them in love. Help me to be more like You. Amen.