A Prayer to Accept Others
By Laura Bailey
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” - Romans 15: 7 NIV
I could tell by how my daughter bounced to the car; she had some news she was ready to share. As her car door opened, so did her mouth, “Mom! We have a new kid; he’s so different!” My mind did that mom thing, you know, where you try to go through all the ways you could respond. I decided on a quick acknowledgment. “Oh, how fun your class has a new student!” Then asked her, "What exactly do you mean by different?"
My daughter described the new student in detail; she raved about her colorfully dyed hair and unique style. For many, a child with purple-streaked locks, who willingly choose not to eat meat, and doesn’t mind expressing themselves in bold prints, is probably normal. But, for better or worse, in my small southern town, most kids stick to clothing choices, hairstyles, and diets that don't deviate too far from what the other kids are doing.
This new student wasn’t that different, but their differences stood out to my daughter in a class where most everyone looked and acted the same. I could sense there was a question bubbling underneath my daughter's afterschool news.“How should I treat this new person?”
In Rome, the church was experiencing a similar situation when they asked Paul, “what should we do about differences among believers?” Most of the Roman church were new believers and Jewish converts, so they didn’t have a firm grasp on their freedoms as Christians. Paul, in Romans 15:1-7, encouraged believers of all levels of faith to humbly work to get along and accept one another, even if their beliefs on personal freedoms differ.
Yes, we must accept the message of the gospel that there is the only way to Heaven through a personal relationship with Christ. However, there are many things in which the Bible allows us to lean into our personal conscious and convictions. In Paul’s time, arguments were over eating meat or attending specific festivals. Today, Christians disagree over political parties or worship styles. What might be right for one should be avoided for another, but either way, we should learn to live in harmony.
In the Roman church and today, we’ve missed the point if we can’t look past our differences, choosing to love and welcome others just as Christ did for us. As believers, one of the ways we show Christ, bringing God glory, is by accepting His people. We don’t discriminate based on what they look like, the food they choose to eat, or other personal preferences.
In the conversation with my daughter, I asked her if she knew if the new student had found a church. “Why does that matter, mom?” I gently responded, “ Because having a personal relationship with Christ is the only thing that does matter.” I am grateful the Lord allowed me to share the unifying Gospel message, but I also felt a firm conviction from the Holy Spirit. How often had I failed to accept others whose preferences and beliefs differed from mine? May we embrace the words of Paul and invite others into a relationship with Christ just as Christ did for us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for adopting us into your family. Remind us that the gospel is for every tribe and every nation; it doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race, economic status, or background. Lord, I ask that you help me to see people as you see them, looking past the physical and into their hearts. Let me welcome people with open arms, minds, and hearts with people who look differently from me. Give me discernment as I seek to honor you in everything I say. Forgive us when we fall short. We love you; thank you for your patience as we navigate life in a fallen world.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/gpointstudio
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