From the vicarage February 2012

In my last from the vicarage I introduced the subject of acceptance under three headings:
1. acceptance from God
2. acceptance of self
3. acceptance of each other

Let’s think about the first of these. How do we find acceptance from God? We find the answer in the first three chapters of the letter to the Romans. Here, Paul describes five types of people and shows that only one group is acceptable to God.

The first type of person has given up on God in his mind and heart. This person can be an atheist or he might believe God exists but chooses to ignore God. His heart is set on living for pleasure. He spends his life in nightclubs, drinking, taking drugs, going to sex parties, just blowing out and doing what makes him feels good (Romans 1:28-31).

The second type is the finger pointing judge who sees the first type of person, tuts or shakes his head. This is the sort of person who says “I would never do that, it’s wrong.” Paul challenges this person to stop judging because God will judge him. (Romans 2:3)

The third person has a conscience and knows what’s right and wrong. She’s the good neighbour, the person who would look after your cat when you are on holiday and takes your washing in for you when it rains. She wouldn’t do what the clubber does and she wouldn’t judge him. She gets gets on with life, “everyone to their own.” (Romans 2:15)

The forth person is the religious teacher, Paul was thinking of the Jews but it applies to anyone who is religious. This is the sort of guy who knows all the rules and regulations, the rights and wrongs of religious life, what we should do and shouldn’t do. He knows exactly how to behave at the church, gurdwara, temple, mosque or synagoue and he teachers others to do the same as him. Where to sit, when to stand, how to dress, what religious duties need to be performed, how much money to give, all this right down to the finest detail. Long lists of dos and don’ts. (Romans 2:19)

You might see yourself in one or more of these first four groups. The sad reality is that none of these groups accepts the other. Some mock, some sneer and some ignore the others. Not accepting each other is not the main problem, however. Paul shows from the Old Testament that none of them is acceptable to God:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; Romans 3:11-12

Why is this? This answer is wonderful and one we need to grasp if we are ever to know God’s acceptance.  God does not accept anyone on the basis of what they do with their life. God accepts people on his grounds not ours.

…righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24

God accepts everyone, from any of the first four groups, who accepts his free offer of acceptance, his righteousness, through what his Son has done for us. The result of this is a humility and love for others which bridges the great divides. But before we see how those divides are bridged, we must think about our self acceptance and we’ll do that next month.
Much love, Neil

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