ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER
Accept One Another
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
We have been working our way through some of the “One Another” passages in the Bible during this season of Lent. We have looked at what it means to “Greet One Another,” “Honor One Another,” “Be Devoted to One Another,” “Serve One Another,” Submit to One Another,” and “Live in Harmony With One Another.” Lent is a time to fast from something so that we can draw closer to Christ as we prepare our hearts and homes for the hope and power of the resurrection.
Today we turn to the book of Romans to hear what our good friend, Paul, has to say about accepting one another.
Before we turn to God’s Word, let us come to the Lord in prayer. “Lord, God of heaven and earth, You call us into community, yet there is so much disunity. You call us to greet one another, honor one another, be devoted to one another, serve and submit to one another. Help us now, Lord, as we learn to accept one another. In Jesus name amen.”
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” 4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.[i]
Encouragement --- Endurance --- Hope
When Paul writes this letter around 57AD, the world was extremely divided. The Greeks hated the Romans because the Romans had overpowered them. The Romans looked down on the Arabs and Jewish people as inferior. The Jewish people did not like the Romans. The divisions and disunity were made even more clear by the hatred of the other polytheistic religions. That is, the religions that had many Gods versus the monotheistic (ONE GOD) religion of the Jewish people. People everywhere were divided by religion, by nations and by social status. The rich lorded over the poor, the free over the slave and males over females.
Sound familiar? Things haven’t changed all that much.
In our passage from Romans, Paul is telling us that the strong should bear with the weak! That we should please our neighbor and build them up. I wonder how many of us today know who our neighbors are. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, Jesus has a wonderful teaching about loving your neighbor as yourself. He told the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten and robbed and left for dead. A Priest and a Levite pass the man by. But a Samaritan man comes along and bandages the beaten man up and takes him into town and pays for the man to stay in the house as he heals from his wounds. Jesus then asks who the good neighbor is. This is what Paul is writing about. The strong should bear with the weak. We should please our neighbor and build them up.
Fred McFeely Rogers was a man defined by his Christian faith. You may know him by his television name, Mr. Rogers! The message that he taught every day on his beloved children's show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, was shaped by Rogers’ Christian faith. Do you know Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister? True. Rogers said repeatedly: "You've made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are." "I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable," he said in the 2003 documentary “America’s Favorite Neighbor.” If you haven’t seen “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers—do yourself a favor and watch it. Rogers echoes the sentiment of the biblical passage 1 John 4:10, "This is love: Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." The focus is not just how important it is that you're loved, but also how vital it is to be loving.
Rogers' theological messages could be traced to the biblical notion of "neighbor" and Jesus' parable about the Good Samaritan. Jesus' point—that the Samaritan and the Jewish man were neighbors in a spiritual sense, if not a physical one—feels right at home on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, where Rogers greeted you with a daily "Hi, neighbor!" as if the whole world lived in the same close-knit community.
Rogers said in a 2001 commencement address at Middlebury College: "When we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred." It may sound old-fashioned, but Mister Rogers's theology was radical in 1962 when his show debuted, and it remains radical today. That's why it resonated. That's why it's still necessary.
How do we do this? How do we accept one another? How do we appreciate our neighbor? The Apostle Paul says that we have all we need in what has been written meaning that the Word of God will give us the endurance and encouragement so that we might have hope.
Accept One Another
My wife and I took a small mission team of teenagers down to Mexico to do a VBS for a local church. While we were there, they took us to visit the different areas of Ensenada. One day our hosts took us to the card board village on the outskirts of town. We had a tape player that shared the gospel in their dialect. I have to tell you that trying to witness to this group was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Their shower was a bucket on top of a building. Their homes were made of cardboard and plastic tarps and bags. One home after another. Separated by cardboard. They slept on the dirt floor. These were the outcast people. And they were all so happy to see us because they knew we had brought food, and clothes. When we left for home, the kids decided to give all of our leftover food, and money to this people group. The kids unpacked their suitcases and left their clothes, shoes, and sleeping bags and pillows. We went back and decided not to witness with the tape of the Gospel. The kids decided to play ball with the children, to share their cookies and water as well as everything else we had packed up from camp. These people were our neighbors, even if just for ten days. I was really proud of this group of high school youth.
I went with a team of men to Ecuador to develop a renewal weekend for the Ecuadoran people. We had developed a similar weekend down in Lima, Peru, a few years earlier. We invited some of the Peruvian men to come up to help us. The first night of the retreat, the men from Peru were on one side of the room and the men of Ecuador were on the other side of the room and a bunch of us Americans were stuck in the middle. That first night I wondered if this what Jesus meant when he said, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” The Peruvians don’t like the Ecuadorians and vice versa—but, by the end of the weekend, everyone was hugging. Accept one another.
The Greek word for “accept” is “προσλαμβάνω proslambanō’ and it means, “to receive, to accept, to welcome, to take along as a companion, or to gather together.”
Jesus taught acceptance. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He went out to the sick and broken. Jesus welcomed the outcasts.
Have you ever stopped to think that Jesus has accepted you and me? Then why don’t we accept, welcome, gather together, take along as a companion---the other we meet along the way? Jesus does.
When I lived in Rochelle, a girl from our church went on vacation to Canada with her family. Susie was 13. During their trip, Susie got bit by a mosquito that infected her brain with encephalitis. Susie had been a normal junior high girl who made straight A’s and participated on the swim team. But that summer, everything changed for Susie. Susie now faced daily challenges of dealing with a paralyzed body. Susie’s life had changed overnight. One thing about Susie never changed, though, her joy and her cheerfulness and her beautiful smile. My wife and Susie became fast friends. Susie learned how to ride a bike and became a daily visitor in our home. For over 20 years, Jac and Susie had a wonderful friendship. Susie loved the lord Jesus and she told everyone about Him! Susie was the kind of person who radiated the love and acceptance of Jesus. She never met a person she didn’t like! And after 20 years of calling Susie her BFF…we entered ministry and left Rochelle. Jac prayed hard for Susie to find another BFF and she did. Every time we would go back to Rochelle for a visit, we could count on finding Susie on our doorstep. Susie became independent enough to move into an apartment on her own. We would then stop by Susie’s apartment and have a cup of tea and tell old war stories of the “good old days.” And…as God would have it…we returned for a visit a few years ago and heard that Susie had fallen gravely ill. We drove over to her apartment, her family let us in. They told us Susie was very close to death, that she hadn’t opened her eyes in days but that we could go in and see her. As we knelt down on the floor, we took her hands in ours, and we spoke to our friend. We told her how much we loved her. We thanked her for being our BFF. Two big, crocodile tears rolled down her cheeks. Susie passed into the heavenly kingdom and was now BFF with Jesus.
Why do I tell you this story? Because not everyone in town accepted Susie. Susie was different. She was an adult trapped in the mind of a child. Susie cried a lot and Susie laughed a lot. But Susie did one thing very well: Susie accepted everyone she ever met. She didn’t care who you were, or what you did. And every time Susie left you, she always smiled and said, “Jesus loves you and so do I.”
In 1998 I accepted my first position in ministry. I was the Senior, and only, pastor in a small town in Missouri. We were 30 miles from Branson and Table Rock Lake. We were 30 miles from Springfield, Missouri and the only Bass Pro Store in the country. I followed a pastor who had had an affair. The church was conflicted. Families were destroyed.
I became friends with the local butcher and soon he and his wife and family started coming to church. These people loved the Lord with all their heart. And one day, I was invited out to the doctor’s house for lunch. The doctor and his wife told me that they needed to share that the butcher and his family were nice enough people, but they were from the wrong side of town. The doctor used the fancy place setting of our lunch as an example. “Look, pastor, there’s a plate, a napkin, a glass, and utensils here. Every one of these things represents a church. All the plates in town go to the plate church. All the glasses go to the glass church. And we’re the napkin church and all of the napkins go to the napkin church.” I took my napkin and crumpled it up. I said that then, “This napkin doesn’t belong.” I was seriously shocked, yes! “Wait!” I said. “But what if Jesus works in this crumpled up napkin’s life and makes it a square again? Can it come to the church of the square napkins?” The doctor and his wife looked at each other and then they looked at me. “No, pastor, no they can’t. They’re too different.” That next Sunday during Adult Sunday School—a group of about 30 members walked in and said they wanted to have a meeting. All of the non-members left and they started their meeting. Their main goal of this meeting was for me to take the list of people they didn’t like and have me ask them to go to another church. I remember saying that I couldn’t do that, that church was supposed to be open to anyone.
It got ugly from that point on. We were put into church mediation with the ecclesiastical body recommending that, for our own safety, we find a new church home. All because the butcher and his family were from the wrong side of town. I’m still friends with the butcher and that was 20 years ago. Accept one another. I have to confess; the butcher and his wife were from California! How often we have laughed that we found our true hearts’ ministry here in California?
Accept One Another. Welcome one another. Receive one another. Take along as a companion. Gather together.
I think Fred Rogers was right. "When we look for what's best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we're doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we're participating in something truly sacred."
This is your SO WHAT? Homework for the week. No matter where you go, look for the best in the person you’re with. This is how Christ lived his life: always looking for the best in the people he was with.
SHOW THE TRAILER OF THE OPENING OF THE MR. ROGERS SHOW…and say…
What if God is the Mr. Rogers of Heaven? What if this is our dress rehearsal? Puts a whole new twist on ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER now, doesn’t it?
The Seed Christian Fellowship
Rancho Cucamonga, California 91701
April 7, 2019
Pastor Dave Peters
[i] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Ro 15:1–7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.