We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. 4”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)
If we are going to avoid the spiritual virus of offense and hatred, it is important to heed the words of Paul to the church in Rome. In the last devotional, I shared how Paul helped the Jewish and the Gentile Christians in that Church to get along and instructed them to bear with each others’ weaknesses. This is a continuation of what Paul taught the believers in handling their differences.
In verse 7 in the above passage, Paul taught them that they are to accept each other just as Jesus has accepted them! The New King James Translation (NKJV) states that we are to receive each other, but the New International Version (NIV) states that we are to accept each other. The Lord convicted me with this verse. Accepting someone is harder than receiving them! For example, we may receive a gift from someone, but we don’t necessarily accept it until we open it and start utilizing it.
Many of us receive other believers in a sort of superficial way. We may say hello and give them a hug, but in our hearts we are not interested to get to know them or hear their stories. We have made up our minds that we have too many differences to have a desire to develop a relationship with them. In addition, the social media doesn’t help in this regard either because we see people’s posts and comments and determine that we don’t agree with them on many issues. This is the place where offense and unforgiveness begins to lodge itself in our hearts. This can eventually lead to indifference or even hatred where we prefer not to see the person or interact with them any longer.
One of Jesus’ missions was to breakdown the barriers of hostility between us and others. Hostility can develop for variety of reasons including differences. For some reason differences seem threatening to us and we try to avoid it. The truth is differences exist even in the same family. Married couples have differences and siblings don’t always get along. God has created us uniquely, and we all have our own experiences that shape our views and values. While the world and its system continues to put up walls and create barriers, we are called to breakdown the barriers of hostility and differences because of who Jesus is for us!
Paul stated that the reason we should accept others is that Jesus has accepted us! None of us would be here if it wasn’t for Jesus accepting us and giving us a fresh start in life. He did not ask us to change our views about a lot of things right away. The Holy Spirit just gently and patiently worked with us to see the error of our ways, and He continues to lead us in the way we should go.
How well do you accept others? Are you long suffering with the weak and the immature? Do you have a tendency to focus on your differences or are you able to concentrate on the fact that they are your brothers and sisters in Christ? The more we are able to accept people where they are at, the less likely the spirit of offense or hatred can lodge in our hearts. I am certainly a work-in-progress in this area, but I want to do better and not make people’s views or choices to be a cause of offense in my heart!