In Romans 15:7, Paul teaches that we are to “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” In looking at the context of this verse, we find that the previous section of Romans speaks about eating and not eating meat offered to idols. Paul is teaching us here that we need to be accepting of each other’s differing behaviors brought about by matters of conscience – not matters of sin, but matters of conscience. That being said, before I can correctly judge such a situation, I better be sure I know what the Bible says or doesn’t say on the matter.
I also looked up the Greek word used here for “accept” using Zodhiates’ Complete Word Study Dictionary – “to admit to one’s society and fellowship, receive and treat with kindness.” This reminded me of another passage of Scripture where James gives the example of dinner guests getting different treatment based on their expensive clothing. He concludes, “If you show partiality, you are committing sin” (James 2:9). When we behave like members of a high school clique rather than members of the Body of Christ, we are destroying the unity Jesus prayed for and commanded of us.
Another lesson to be seen in this definition is regarding prejudice. In some areas, we’ve come a long way towards overcoming racial prejudice. In others, it seems we’ve only begun. It can be difficult to be truly accepting of people we may have little in common with or know very little about. Therefore, when I’m in such a situation, I think it is important to extend an extra measure of kindness and effort to get acquainted so everyone feels comfortable and acceptance will follow.
I find it interesting that Peter took about five years from the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 to the conversion of the gentile Cornelius in Acts 10 for him to accept that the God of Israel was also accepting of gentiles. “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35).
If you’ve realized there is a brother or sister in Christ that you are not fully accepting, consider doing something special for that person. Sometimes this is what our heart needs to eventually get in line with what our mind knows is right… or vice versa!
How is “accepting one another” being carried out in your church? What can you personally do to promote a spirit of acceptance in your local congregation?