A few days ago, I posted a blog called “Accept one another…” I was talking about this subject with some friends last weekend, and we realized that there are two mistakes that believers generally make when it comes to accepting one another. In fact, I think these two mistakes tend to demonstrate either a failure to accept one another, or a failure to admonish one another. Either failure is destructive to relationships, fellowship, and community.
As we meet new brothers and sisters in Christ, we should accept them as they are in their walk with Christ. At the same time, we also should recognize that God may use us to mature them in their walk with Christ. Thus, our relationship should be one of both acceptance and admonishment – one of both love and discipleship – one of both mercy and teaching.
The first type of failure occurs when believers accept one another, but fail to admonish one another. This usually occurs when we view (either intentionally or unintentionally) the other believer’s sins as trivial – that is, these sins are not as serious as other sins. In this case, we allow brothers and sisters to continue in their sins without admonishing them or encouraging them toward maturity in Christ.
The second type of failure occurs when believers fail to accept one another because the other believer struggles with “serious” or “unacceptable” sins (i.e. many times sexual sins are included in this category). Note, I am not talking about unrepentant people in this scenario. Assume that the other believer recognizes the sin and repents of the sin, but continues to struggle with sinful habits and temptations. Based on Jesus’ instructions to Peter, we should also continue to forgive this brother or sister. But, instead of forgiving, we do not even accept them as brothers or sisters. We distance ourselves from those brothers and sisters who do not have “acceptable” sins.
For example, assume a sister is struggling with greed or covetousness. This sister buys the latest electronic gadgets, a new car every year or so, fashionable and trendy clothing, etc. However, besides these quirks, she is great friend. Do we approach her about her sin? Do we help her grow past her need to be satisfied by other things instead of finding satisfaction in God? If we recognize the sin in this sister’s life, but fail to help her mature, then we have erred on the side of acceptance with admonishment. This is disastrous for fellowship and community.
As another example, assume a brother is struggling with lust and adultery. The brother has had several affairs, but consistently repents of his sin. Do we accept this brother in spite of his struggles with sin? Do we welcome him as Christ welcomed us and then help him grow in maturity in Christ? If we do not accept this brother, then we have erred on the side of not accepting someone who Christ has accepted. This is also disastrous for fellowship and community.
Honestly, I think I fail in both ways. At times, and with certain sins, I fail by accepting the brother or sister, but failing to encouraging them toward maturity in Christ. At other times, and with certain other sins, I fail because I never accept the brother or sister in the first place.
Instead of failing in either of these areas, we must learn to walk in the tension between these two mistakes. We accept one another as Christ accepted us – recognizing that we are not perfect yet. We also teach and admonish one another, encouraging one another toward maturity in Christ. It may not always be pretty. It may sometimes get “messy“. But this is necessary for real relationships, fellowship, and community.
This is something that we cannot do on our own. Instead, this type of life can only be lived out in the power and presence of the Spirit. It can only be lived out in the love of God which demonstrates itself in our love for God and our love for others. When we are living this type of life, we will love people enough to accept them just as they are (just as God does), and we will love people enough to desire to see them grow in maturity in Christ (just as God does).