Accepting everyone regardless of where they come from is a great way to welcome people to church and introduce them to faith. However, if we stop with acceptance, it’s also a way to make sure few lives change. I’ve never seen someone’s life change through “acceptance.” I’ve seen them attend church for long periods of time because of “acceptance.” But, I’ve never actually seen someone’s life change.
There is a school of thought these days suggesting that through acceptance, people will come around, more or less, through osmosis. They will be “loved into the Kingdom.” I’ve never seen that.
Not one time.
I’m suggesting we move on from acceptance to love. Acceptance and love are hardly synonymous. Most would acknowledge that…but in practice, it’s easy to avoid tough conversations with people about putting their sin to death or turning away from sin toward God in the name of “love.” Love is patient and kind, but it also rejoices in the truth. It’s the truth that sets people free.
If we are Christians, we are involved in life change–of which acceptance is a start. But it is only a start. If we follow Jesus, we follow one whose grace led him to eat with tax collectors and sinners, while calling people everywhere to repent.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen people be accepted in such a way they finally open up to the truth, and subsequently repentance takes place. However, that’s different than simply providing a gathering place for people to be “accepted” without life change as a real part of the agenda. It’s easy to let “love” become an excuse for cowardess or laziness in calling people to repent or let Jesus transform their heart.
Acceptance may start the life change process. It doesn’t end it.
Most of us have an allergy toward hate-filled, loveless, so-called “prophetic voices.” We should. However, some of us are also developing and allergy toward the proclamation of truth both face-to-face and from the pulpit.
Don’t just accept people. Love people. Love them enough to call them to be all Christ wants for them. If someone is lost, lead them to Jesus gently. Don’t just “accept” how they are. Jesus changes hearts and lives. We must help people understand while they are loved as they are, they are called beyond “as they are” to who they are in Christ.
Let’s accept people with the understanding they need more than acceptance. They need Jesus, who loves them enough not to let them languish in “just who they are.” He provides an atonement for sins, a purpose for life, and the power to transform us in ways we can’t imagine.
That, not just acceptance, is the Gospel.