Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
I saw an interview recently, in which a wealthy man had built a doomsday fortress and he was only inviting those who agreed with him politically to join him in the event of a cataclysmic event. The bottom line: he was only willing to accept those who thought like him.
Consider the experience of the early church as Jews and Gentiles embraced the faith and worshipped together. Just as in our world today, they came from backgrounds accustomed to excluding others who were racially, culturally, and politically different.
In Romans 15:7, the Apostle Paul calls for unity based on Christ’s acceptance of us. Just as Jesus brought us into union with God, we must be unified with one another. One faith. One God. One Lord and Savior.
God accepted us despite ourselves. We were rebellious, sinful, and at enmity with Him. He is divine. We are human. But He accepted us the way we were; cleansed us, created us anew, and gave to us freely from His riches and glory. Likewise, God wants us to accept one another, look passed our differences, and to the commonality we share in Christ. We are brothers and sisters, children of the King.
You are not more saved than me or anyone else in the faith. You are not more highly favored than anyone else in the faith. However, there are those in the church who act as if they are better than others.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with people of like mind, talents, or interests fellowshipping with one another. But where we must draw the line is when those small groups become closed cliques who gossip, criticize, or ostracize other believers because they don’t live up to some non-Biblical standard.
One of the primary reasons people cite for preferring to attend a large church is because they can maintain their anonymity. They feel they can come and go without being judged. Many among them express negative experiences in small churches because they weren’t accepted, or because they were made to feel unwelcome.
In reality, Spiritual snobbery can be found wherever Christians gather. It is a problem faced by churches big and small, and a malady we should guard against.
Keep the goal of brotherly acceptance top of mind as revealed in our focus text: “… in order to bring praise to God.” We should strive to avoid behavior that hinders unified worship.
Following are ways we can make that happen:
(1) God’s church is not just about you and those you want to include in your circle of relationships. Paul opens Romans, Chapter 15, with this admonition: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” We should consider the feelings and preferences of others.
In my early days as a pastor, it bugged me that Baptists preferred to sit in the back of the church. One Sunday morning, I decided to do something about it, and called for the congregation to move to the front of the room. Some complied. Some didn’t. And I fear some may have been offended to the point of never returning. I later adopted the position that having them there was more important than where they sat. It was more important to bear with their preferences than to please myself.
(2) Respect the desire of others for anonymity but do be warm and welcoming. Be an encourager. In verse 2 of Romans 15 we read, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
(3) Don’t push people into things they don’t want to do. Have you ever been guilted into a job or an activity in the church you regretted? Let the Holy Spirit do the arm twisting. Acceptance is not pulling or pushing believers to do our bidding. Acceptance is honoring NO without ostracizing the person who had declined our invitation.
It is easy to yield to the temptation of thinking of yourself more highly than others when you serve in the church and they don’t. Ultimately, that slippery slope can lead to non-acceptance. People on the front lines of Christian service are no more loved by God than those who shirk their duty. Pray for those who fail to serve, but never treat them like second class Christians.
(4) Do not participate in gossip sessions. Sunday School classes, prayer meetings, Bible studies, and miscellaneous church gatherings that contain gossip discussions do not honor God. Even that family meal after church can turn into a “he said-she said” fiasco. Sin hinders the work of the Spirit. Gossip is sin, so please don’t do it.
Remember, we sing “To God be the Glory,” and not “To Me be the Glory.” As far as it is up to you, do your part to promote an accepting Christian fellowship.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Make Time to Serve Jesus Christ
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.