Aug. 17, 2009
“So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab.”
Ruth 1: 22
King James Version
“Accepting The Unacceptable”
“Oh, that in religion, as in everything else, (we) would judge our (brothers and sisters) by our own heart; and as dear, as precious as their peculiar creed may be to them, believe so it is with the faith of (others).”
How do I define the word, “unacceptable?”
What does “acceptance” toward those who are different than I am, mean to me?
“We ought to be much more tolerant about faulty behavior. We can all fall into one of Satan’s traps here: it is so easy to give a false impression of super holiness, as if we were already angels, and ignore the company of all who seem human in their shortcomings.”
“Acceptance” – To receive. To take in. Not to reject.
Several days ago, I shared with you a new thought I had found in a book called, Sway, which gives insight into the way we make decisions in our lives. One of the interesting processes that affects the conclusions we come to is what is called “diagnostic bias.” I call this phenomenon, jumping to conclusions, based on previous information that has filled our minds or become part of our life experiences.
For anyone to say that what has happened to us in the past holds no relevance on how we make decisions today would be to deny reality.
With this fact in mind, I will share something with you and ask you to put aside any previous thoughts you may have had regarding two words: acceptance and tolerance.
Interestingly enough, as I was preparing the devotional for today, I came upon a reality I found very disturbing. Here’s what I found. In nearly every Christian book of quotes or prayers and poems, anytime the word “tolerance” or “acceptance” was used – it was done so in a very negative way. Here’s an example from a quote by G. K. Chesterton: “Tolerance is a virtue of the man without convictions.” I suppose he applied this judgment to women who were tolerant, too. And Somerset Maugham stated “tolerance and acceptance are just another name for indifference.”
For many years, right down to today, it has become apparent that “acceptance” of someone or “something,” apparently takes on a very narrow point-of-view in minds which have been limited by a “diagnostic bias” which says that if I “accept” you, I believe what you believe in 100% – completely and totally.
Sadly, we leave no room for one who doesn’t agree with us 100% of the time to feel as though they can even be comfortable in our presence, when we have such limited vision.
Several years ago, I went to lunch with a Buddhist friend remarked, “I know you well enough now Dorothy to say something to you I would have been afraid to say to someone I knew was a Christian. It’s this: I don’t usually have Christians for friends.”
I was stunned. Here was a wonderful person whom I really enjoyed, telling me with a heartfelt sense of honesty and openness that she didn’t particularly like being around Christians. Obviously, her statement shocked me and I had to pursue what made her come to this conclusion.
She continued our conversation by giving me a litany of horror stories about the way she’d been treated by people who called themselves followers of Jesus. In many cases, someone labeled her and left her before they even got to know her. What a tragedy.
Now let’s say Naomi had decided to use this same technique on the two Moabite women her sons brought home. What if she had rejected them and shown an intolerant spirit toward them? But you might say, “They were not followers of God!” And you would be right. However, I want to point out that in Deuteronomy 2: 9, God told Moses not to distress the Moabites. Why? “Because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.” Remember, this little piece of history? The Moabites were the offspring of the incestuous hook-up between Lot and his first born daughter. Genesis 19: 37 says that she had a son and “called his name Moab; the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.” Our merciful Father, in His gracious-kindness saw to it that land was granted to Lot’s offspring.
It seems to me that dear Naomi, witnessing God’s kindness, decided to share some of that kindness, too.
However, there’s more to our history lesson. After God was so generous with the Moabites, when His children, the Israelites, asked to pass through their land and receive water and food, they were denied, so God forbade His children to associate or marry anyone from the Moabite tribe.
As a follower of God, Naomi must have been saddened her sons acted in direct defiance of the God of Israel’s request. She could have chosen to toss her sons and their “heathen” wives out the door while informing them that they weren’t going to pollute her “righteous” home with their “wicked” wives. She could have called them foul names. I’ve heard Christians do that to people they don’t like today. But Naomi didn’t.
In my reading of the story of Naomi in the book of Ruth, the way she treated her foreign daughters-in-law was to accept them – into her home and into her heart.
Here’s the point we need to remember when thinking about the words – acceptance and tolerance. Naomi’s acceptance of her daughters-in-law didn’t diminish her beliefs or standards. Her tolerance, or as the dictionary defines this word, her respect and recognition of the behavior and beliefs of her foreign daughters-in-law didn’t lessen her consecration to God. Instead, by opening her heart and opening her mind, through respectful kindness, she gave these Moabite girls a glimpse into the heart of a God who, when contrasted with their own god, Chemosh, the cult god who presided over some of the vile sexual practices and murderous deeds of the Canaanites, proved a stark contrast between good and evil, kindness and hatred, acceptance and rejection.
We would do well to remember that if Naomi had rejected her son’s wives because of where they were from and who they worshipped, we might not be studying about Ruth today. Naomi’s acceptance of these girls didn’t lower her standards of purity and grace. Instead, her strength in accepting these girls led them on a higher path to the God of heaven and earth.
Recently, I happened upon a beautiful poem, entitled, “God – Let Me Be Aware!” As I read these words I thought of times in my own life when I’ve allowed a “diagnostic bias” to keep me locked within the walls of seclusion where I avoided being challenged by the need to stretch my heart, to open my arms wide and to provide a harbor of acceptance where searchers could come for safety.
Let’s ask God everyday how we may use His heavenly awareness to help us accept and tolerate what we don’t understand before we push others away with our holier-than-thou attitude which totally misrepresents the love of the God of heaven and earth who so generously sent His only begotten Son that ALL might be redeemed.
“God – Let Me Be Aware!”
“God – let me be aware!
Stab my soul fiercely with others’ pain.
Let me walk seeing horror and stain.
Let my hands, groping, find other hands.
Give me the heart that divines, understands,
Give me the courage, wounded to fight.
Flood me with knowledge,
Drench me with light.
Please keep me eager to do my share.
God – let me be aware!”
“Together We Seek the Way”
together we seek the way,
helping, watching, learning, leading,
each step forging new links,
each dialogue opening further
the channels of peace and understanding.
We stand poised on the brink of greatness,
drawn by the Spirit into new realms of hope and trust.
The barriers of past centuries
are slowly crumbling.
We pray that the skeletons of division and discord
will be laid to rest,
and that the people of God will be fully mobilized.
For These and all your mercies,
we thank and praise you, O God.”
St. Hilda Community
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal.
If you would like to purchase When A Woman Meets Jesus at a 30%-50% quantity discount for your Women’s Ministry Program or for Bible Study Groups, please visit:www.direct2church.com or email direct2church@Bakerpublishinggroup.com.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.