This is a different post than I have been intending to write. I wanted to write about one of my favorite books and some of the reasons why I love it. But that will be a post for another time. Today, and many days, something else is on my mind and heart. And that something else is acceptance.
The thing about being a Christian is that we're supposed to love people. But not just "supposed" to. Jesus actually commands that we love others the way we love ourselves. And to love ourselves we first need to accept ourselves the way we are. For who we are. Every part of ourselves. Not just the parts we deem "good enough" or "decent enough" measured by whatever standard we're using to come to that conclusion, while rejecting the other parts of ourselves that we don't see as worthy or enough. But here's the thing: love doesn't come with conditions. Real love isn't because of this reason or in spite of this thing you did for me. It's given freely with no strings attached. If there were conditions it wouldn't be love.
There isn't anything we can do to earn God's love and acceptance. If we could then Jesus wouldn't have had to come and sacrifice his life for ours. We can't work for his love. We can't do anything to become worthy. God loves with no conditions. No expectations that we will be perfect. He made each of us exactly the way we are. He created each of us as unique and beautiful individuals with deep and intricate souls. He created us to be complex individuals with highly personal emotions and feelings that are all our own and different from one another. And those differences are good things. We may not always understand these differences, but that doesn't mean we should fear them or hate them or tear another person apart or look at them as if they are below us because they aren't the same as we are. We are called on to love. To spread the love and acceptance to all people the same way that Jesus did and still does.
Diversity is a beautiful thing. It shows the creativity and wide range of expression of God and his love for everyone. We need diversity. We need it in our communities and in our cultures and in our churches. But we won't have this beautiful and immensely awesome thing without acceptance. And if we don't accept others who are different, who look different, who speak differently, who act or love differently, who may believe differently, then we can't truly love them. And if we can't love them and fight for them then we can't fulfill Jesus' commandment.
The way I see it, doing the right thing isn't about following all the rules. It's not about church attendance. It's not about memorizing scriptures. It's not about praying before every meal. It's about people. It's about connecting. It's about adding something good and real and positive and meaningful to another person's life. It's about being there for someone else. Being a safe place for someone else to express their inner thoughts and feelings and emotions and convictions and desires with no judgements and no condemnation. Creating that safe space for them to be completely honest. Completely themselves. A place where they don't have to hide anything. Unconditional. No strings attached.
I don't know about you, but I find it exhausting to always have to guard yourself around certain people or in certain settings. Always having to make sure you don't say the "wrong" thing. Make sure you don't disagree with something someone says at the "wrong" time or in the "wrong" way. It's almost crushing to feel that you can't be open and honest with people about whatever it is because of fear. Fear that you'll be rejected. Fear that you'll be excluded. Fear that you'll lose your friends, your family, your community. Fear that you'll never be accepted. That you'll never be loved. That you'll never quite be seen as "normal" anymore.
And it's this excruciating feeling, this fear, this constant anxiety, that drives people away. Sometimes even pushing them over the edge completely. We, as Christians, as the Church, God's people, should not be content to let this keep happening. We can't reach every single person in the world, obviously, but we can make a difference in our own personal circles and in our communities and in our churches (if you're part of one). I feel it's our responsibility as believers, yes, but also as human beings, to present ourselves to the world in such a way that no one who interacts with us would ever feel rejected for who they are, but instead would feel truly welcome, loved, and accepted.
Please note: I am not recommending that we naively welcome sketchy people or groups or terrorists or whatever into our society who have given reason to believe that they would do us harm. I'm talking about other believers, friends, relatives, coworkers, customers, random people you pass on the street or in the grocery store. Everyday joes. Use your common sense and intuition to determine whether someone is friend or foe, but in most cases in everyday life, you won't come across a foe. Just a note to make sure we're all on the same page here. :)
Thanks for reading!