Jesus says some really interesting things.
Come to me, I will give you rest, take my yolk, learn of me, my yolk is easy and my burden is light.
Whoever comes to me, I will never cast out.
These and other sayings and experiences in the ministry of Jesus makes it clear that He is one that is inviting people to come to Him. He has come in human flesh. He touches the sick, He reaches out to those on the edges of society. He appears to be the very epitome of someone who is willing to accept others.
And yet in as much as He was willing to accept and embrace people – this was not without its challenges. When people heard more of what it was to follow Jesus – what it was to be a follower of His – some people stopped following. Some found His sayings too tough. Some found that in as much as He wanted to accept them – in all their brokenness and hang-ups – they couldn’t accept Him and His expression of grace, truth and love.
Recently I read this really challenging article that reviewed books about two people’s experiences of grappling with their sexual identity and the response the Christian community had to it. What I like about the article was how there was a challenge for the community and for the individual. The challenge for the community about how to accept the challenges and struggles individuals go through and the effect it has on all aspects of their lives. Also a challenge for the individual to work through and work out how their identity is shaped by understanding the gospel of who Jesus is and what He calls for, not primarily and solely what we desire from Him.
It’s a challenge because often the dialogue that happens between generations and between cultures can sometimes get stuck because we dare not seek to understand the other party. There’s a concern that the alternative might destabilise or challenge what we view to be true. So there’s a stand-off that says that we want to do acceptance, but only in a way that’s pleasing to us.
In Jesus we really have a man who knows what it is to be rejected. We have a man who really knows what it is to be truly human. A man that can then speak to our situation and help us navigate life. A man who is willing to come into our situation, suffer with us, in a bid to lift us from that position and learn to live by Him, in Him, from Him and through Him.
Yes He accepts us as we are, but that was never an invitation to stay that way. He has something so much better to offer – His life. He is willing to accept us, if we are willing to accept Him. And accepting Him really must be fundamentally life-changing – that’s why it’s called new life.
Everyone that accepts Him, He doesn’t reject – and that’s even when we slip and fall back. That’s when we mess up and feel that our conduct, our mindset, our very heart makes us unacceptable. He still points to the work of the Cross and says that He is able to bring about change in our lives, if we willingly accept Him.
Here’s a challenge about acceptance: Are we looking to be accepted first, or do we need to accept One who can best help us know who we really are?
How we address that challenge will be the difference between turning away to stumble into things which are empty, shallow delusions or a constructive dialogue exploring real substantial fruitful life.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden