"Love your neighbor as you do yourself."
Matthew 19:19, The Message
"Acceptance" - Willingly received. Approved.
"I always prefer to believe the best of everybody; it saves so much trouble."
Is there someone I know who needs me to accept and love him?
"Acceptance of Others"
Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:11, New International Version
Several years ago I was asked to serve on a committee with a group of people whom I did not know. At our first meeting, a very attractive woman entered the room. She was dressed to kill and it didn't take long before she was the "center" of the meeting. With very distinct opinions and a willingness to express her views - she took over.
I sat back in my chair, closed my mouth and watched the drama unfold. After the meeting was over I quietly slipped out the door, coming to a quick decision that I would not stay on this committee long.
However, over the next few months, it seemed I was constantly bumping into this individual whom I had chosen to judge so harshly. To my utter surprise, as we became better acquainted, I found that under all that outward beauty and flamboyance was a tender, soft heart who had experienced a great deal of pain - a heart just waiting to be loved unconditionally. Much to my disbelief and delight, I now consider this dear one - one of my most trusted friends.
This situation made me re-evaluate the way I so often assess those around me, only later to find out I completely missed the target. What I thought I knew - I didn't. And sometimes people I have known for years surprised me with their actions.
It is certain, Jesus' life on earth teaches us one critical thing, and this is how to accept the people around us - as trying as it might be. His example serves as a blueprint for loving others.
Let's explore six ways Jesus embraced others with His unconditional love and acceptance:
Way #1: Jesus accepted people as they were. Just look at the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus never told her she was bad. He never told her she had to clean-up her act before He would talk to her. He accepted her as she was and after a few minutes with Jesus, she wanted a new life. After spending time with Jesus, she craved the living water He offered as His free gift to her. (John 4:5-39).
Way #2: Jesus accepted people where they were. Take a look at a little man named Zacchaeus. He was chief among the politicians and very rich. When Jesus met him, he had climbed up a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. I think Jesus would have gone up in the tree if necessary to meet this man, but instead, Jesus said, "I'd like to go to your house today," and that's exactly what happened. Luke tells us that not only did Zacchaeus accept Jesus, he returned ill-gotten money to the people he ripped-off. Up a tree, to your house, at a party, or in a garden - Jesus will go where you are to find you and give you a new life.
Way #3: Jesus accepted people when they were willing to meet with Him. In John 3 there is a story of a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Because of his high social and religious standing in the community, Nicodemus didn't feel comfortable talking with Jesus in the open, so by night, he sought Jesus' company - at a time and in a place where no one would see him. Did Jesus become offended? Not at all. He accepted Nicodemus when he came to talk with Him - no questions asked!
Way #4: Jesus accepted people with no regard as to how it might hurt His own reputation. Matthew 11:19 tells us people called Jesus a "gluttonous man and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." I'm certain these harsh words pained Jesus but it didn't stop Him from, in His own words, saying He was here on earth to do everything He could "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, King James Version).
Way #5: Jesus didn't just give people one chance. We find in the life of Peter that even when this disciple denied three times that He knew Jesus, he was not only forgiven, but Jesus entrusted him to carry on the work of telling others the Good News about Christ rising from the dead. Jesus was and is a Man who gives us a second, third, fourth - or even more - chances if we need them.
Way #6: Jesus accepted people even when everyone else had given up on them. You have to look no further than Matthew 27:38 where Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One of these men, sorry for his sinful past, asked Jesus to remember him - and that day, this condemned man was assured by Jesus of his salvation.
If you and I follow the blueprint laid out by Jesus for accepting and loving others, just think what a change could be made in this world. I love these words written by Levi Yitchak: "Lord of the World, I stand before you and before my neighbors - pardoning, forgiving, struggling to be open to all … I am ready to take upon myself the commandment, Love your neighbor as yourself."
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are mine … when they see the love you have for each other."
John 13:34, 35, The Message
"To Love Another"
"For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person - it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in (herself), for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on (her), something that chooses (her) and calls (her) to vast distances."
Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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 for $8.00.
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