Three words that friends have used to describe me are bold, passionate, and outspoken. While I take this as a compliment, it has also been the cause of disunity in some instances. I’m usually the last to know when one of my friends are making questionable choices or living a lifestyle that doesn’t quite match up with the Bible or Godly morals. It’s because they know I’m the one that will say something; I’m the one that will call them out. And people tend to avoid being called out when they know they’re in the wrong.
Now, while it is totally acceptable as brothers and sisters in Christ to hold one another accountable to Godly principles, that’s not what I want to cover in this post. What I want to discuss is the verse of Romans 15:7. It reads, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Accept one another.
Let me give an example. Over the summer, I went on a three-month roadtrip/camping trek through a few countries in Africa. On this trek, I was forced to live and minister with 12 other strangers from around the world. As you can imagine, living with anyone for a few months would be difficult. We started off the summer sharing our life stories; our testimonies, sins, and struggles in our walks up to this point. We were all committed to being challenged, grown, and ultimately going home changed.
Because we were all constantly doing ministry together, it soon became very obvious what areas of sin we all struggled with. For instance, there was one person who seemed to seek a lot of attention; another who was often very selfish and didn’t like to be inconvenienced; another who wasn’t the most considerate of others. And still, another who had a great deal of pride. So here I am, committed to letting the Lord work in me and really grow me, and I found myself getting frustrated in what I saw to be very obvious issues of the flesh with my brothers and sisters. I went to the Lord to see if I should say something to anyone. Should I point out this area to this person so that they can attend to it?
Every single time, I felt the Lord say, “No.”
Instead, I was directed to this verse of accepting my siblings. And what I gained from this experience far outweighed anything I would have hoped to gain by helping my teammates “deal” with their areas.
But wait. Why wouldn’t the Lord want me to “sharpen” my siblings in areas that they struggled with? Interestingly enough, the whole trip passed with hardly anyone calling anyone out on anything. And we all managed just fine.
How is this applicable to you? For any of you who are in ministry, I’m sure you can relate.
Is there a person in a position of leadership who you see deals with the issue of pride? Their actions motivated to gain attention for themselves rather than Jesus?
Is there someone in your small group who finds their identity in something other than Christ?
Do you know someone at church who causes disunity amongst other believers?
Do you know a fellow believer who has a hard time forgiving?
Someone who is inconsiderate of others?
Someone who is not ruled by the Spirit?
Someone who makes no attempt to be unified or a part of his or her Christian community?
It’s frustrating right? I’m sure you get the picture and someone has come to mind. The truth is, we are a church full of broken people. If our gaze is not fixed on Jesus and only Jesus, then our sin-nature takes over and we eventually start to hurt each other.
But it is not your job to fix people.
It is your job to love and pray. And to speak only when God tells you to. It is the Lord’s job to change. What a relief right?
The times where the Lord challenged me the most all summer was with accepting people. He taught me to learn to love my incredible brothers and sisters despite their sin nature; to not let it affect the way I did ministry. He challenged me to not stand up for my rights or point fingers at other people’s flaws.
Instead, He challenged me to fix my gaze on Him and to respond in a way that would honor Him.
The most amazing part? God works those things out without you saying anything. For me, I saw the Lord change my teammates without me needing to bring anything up. So not only did the Lord transform my teammates, but He also transformed my heart by challenging me to accept others. Because by accepting others and their flaws, I was bringing glory to Jesus.
God was challenging me to die to MY flesh and to stop looking at others. Instead, He pointed me back to surrendering more and more of myself. He challenged me to try to imitate Jesus in every situation: to accept other people’s flaws because the Lord had accepted and atoned for mine. For yours. For your neighbors.
So next time you feel you see something in a fellow believer that is not of Christ, I simply ask that you pray before you speak. I think you’ll be surprised how the Lord challenges us to change our hearts rather than trying to change each other. Because ultimately, that’s His job. And let’s be real, He’s much better at it than we are.