So, at church last weekend we were talking about community. One of the things the pastor mentioned when talking about it was our craving, our desire, for acceptance. And about how often we will do crazy things just to be accepted into a group. We will even do things that go against our values and beliefs to be accepted.
I definitely think this is something that plagues our culture. Despite constantly being told that we can do it all on our own and we don't need anyone else, we defy this statement by how we live. We may say it on the outside, but underneath it all we still have this desire for acceptance that supercedes anything we might say about our ability to live life completely on our own. We want to be accepted by a certain group and we will do anything to be a part of that group. Really,when you think about it, it doesn't matter if it's a sports team, a social group, a gang, or a church group. If we want to be a part of that group we will do whatever it takes to become a part of it.
The saddest part of it all to me, is not that we crave acceptance, but that there are so many times in church circles where this craving for acceptance causes us to do thing we would never otherwise do. In the one place we should be accepted no matter what, we still seem to have to earn our acceptance! Why is this? It doesn't seem right to me!
Why does this happen in the church?!? It shouldn't!!! The church should be the one place where everyone can find acceptance - a community to belong to. Afterall, Jesus never turned anyone away - not even the social outcasts of His society. So why do we think we have the right to turn people away or judge their acceptability by worldly standards?!?!? We don't! But we often act like we do. Just because someone doesn't dress right or act right doesn't make them less worthy of belonging than us. None of us is worthy of acceptance by God on our own merits, so why do we think we have the right to judge other's worthiness of acceptance by God?
I am as guilty of doing this as the next person. Far too often I've judged people by their appearance or actions and deemed them unworthy of acceptance. It comes naturally to most people.
But I've been thinking a lot in the last week about what the church would look like and the force it could be in our world if we became a group - a place - that just accepted all people. What kind of a raical dfference would we make in our world if all people were accepted - were welcomed with open arms. We live in a world surrounded by people who are desperately searching for acceptance - for a community they can belong to. What ifthe church were to actually become the community it should be? Maybe, just maybe, that would move us more in the direction of becoming the world-changing force that the early church was.
Now, I can hear people saying . . . but what about the sin in people's lives? By just accepting them are we condoning their sin? Think about this for a moment . . . who are the people in your life who have the freedom to tell you the hard things? To call you out when you are in sin? They are the people who you are accepted by - the people in the group you are a part of. People living in sin - people who are lost - are not going to listen to us tell them they're living in sin until they feel accepted. We need to welcome people wiht open arms for who they are and, after that, we can get around to helping them change their sinful ways.
Our cultural circumstance are different than they were for the early church, but we are still a part of a hurting and broken world. And we still hold the only hope for our hurting and broken world. But, if they are going to come to us and we are going to go to them, we must become a community that accepts people for who they are and where they're at. We can't judge people as worthy of acceptance or not - that's not our job. We must accept them!!!