It’s easy for me to accept someone who is like me, and thinks the same way as I do. It’s easy for me to accept someone with the same musical taste as me, the same sense of humour and the same style of parenting.
It’s hard to accept someone different to me, and hard to accept that God has called them to be part of his family.
So what can I do? How can I genuinely accept my brothers and sisters? After all, ‘Love must be sincere’. Love must not be fake.
When I first arrived at our London church and began getting to know the very cross-cultural church family, there were a lot of differences. Dress sense. Hair styles (I mean, who sticks their hair in a bun on top of their head?). Hospitality customs. Musical taste. Parenting. Accent (shudder). Although these differences could have made it hard to sincerely love the church family, I tried not to focus on what was hard to accept. Instead I wondered, what has God found acceptable about them?
The answer was simply Jesus.
God accepted them because of their repentance and faith in Jesus. That was all he wanted to find in them, and he found it.
On reflection, what has God found acceptable about me? Exactly the same: Jesus.
Incidentally, it was the only thing he found acceptable about me.
When it comes to sincere love for others, I need to review my standards for accepting other Christians; I can’t set my standards for acceptance higher than God’s standards! What am I looking for to accept others? I am looking to see Jesus shining through them.
As soon as I see Jesus – his love, grace and Holy Spirit at work – I know I have common ground with this believer. It helps me to love them, knowing we both have the same goal, same hope, same Lord. It certainly helped me a lot in our London church when, rather than being frustrated when they weren’t becoming more like me and my preferences, I began to accept that other Christians are becoming more like Jesus.
Together, as a church family, we started displaying the family traits of compassion toward each other, the same ‘eyes’ of faith, prayerfulness, and the same humility that our big brother Jesus showed. When we accept each other on those terms, with the Gospel at the centre, love truly can be sincere, despite our differences.