Acceptance has become a tricky word in our current cultural understanding. It’s hard for us to truly understand and apply God’s heart and message in situations where people have different beliefs, values, and morality. But it is no different than his acceptance of us based on grace.

Speak the Truth in Love?

Many well-meaning Christians find it necessary to “speak the truth in love” like a duty unto to the Lord, perhaps even to absolve their own guilt. When our motivation is guilt, guilt is what we project, perpetuating the endless shame-cycle that the spirit of the world and our flesh perpetuates. The good news is that our guilt has been absolved at the cross. It is God’s kindness that leads us into repentance. (Rom. 2:4)

While we may be inclined to believe we are obligated “say something” when our sense of right is offended, I want to reveal another aspect of God’s character and his treatment of us so that we may have the Spirit of Wisdom when responding to people and loved ones who have chosen a different way of life.

For a fuller understanding, it would be good to dive deep into Rom. 1:18-2:29. I cannot recommend The Passion Translation enough for this understanding. It highlights the emotions of God’s heart for us that would have been understood in Aramaic.

Like a perfect parent, when we choose to go our own way, God releases us. He lets us have it our way. It has never been his desire to control or force us to do his will—it’s simply not in his nature—so he lifts his restraining hand and gives us over to our own desires.

Acceptance of those who believe differently is an act of grace based on trust in God to set things right.

Immediately after his discussion on what seems to be obvious rebellion in Romans 1, Paul writes, “No matter who you are, before you judge the wickedness of others, you had better remember this: you are also without excuse, for you too are guilty of the same kind of things!” (2:1) It is God who judges, God who executes his wrath, and God who accepts us only because of grace.

When we say something out of our own (fleshly) sense of right and wrong, we are condemning ourselves. “Speak the truth in love” is often code for “tell them what the Bible says.” The Word ends up being used like a weapon, even if that is not our intention, and perpetuates shame.

The Space for Grace

It can be scary to let go, it may feel like we are giving up on our culture, our government, our family, or our loved ones. We may feel threatened in our very core, our identity, like we are giving up part of ourselves. The Kingdom of God often feels inside-out and upside-down, opposite to our sensibilities. When we release, it actually creates space for the Holy Spirit to do only what he can do—draw us into repentance.

We create space for grace.

In the overall picture, God’s treatment of his wayward children is an act of divine wisdom. From the garden to the law to the cross, we see a God that knows exactly how to redeem his people. Whether it is the season to separate, to instruct, to release, to judge, to wait in grace—God knows the right response to bring us back to him.

One thing we can be certain, Paul assures us that when we choose our own way, we already feel condemned in our very being.  (Rom. 1:19) It may not be necessary for us to point out what is wrong, at least not in all circumstances. 

Paul states that our radical change of heart is “not by the principle of the written code, but by power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 2:29) In essence, the law isn’t the answer to our sin problem, not as individuals and not as a nation. It never was. It simply doesn’t have the power to make us righteous.

Acceptance has always been an act of grace.

Led By the Spirit

It is by this same Spirit that we will know the right response in each situation.

When we understand our own stubbornness, when we realize how patient God is with us, when our heart is submitted in a spirit of humility, the Holy Spirit can guide us in all circumstances. When we allow God to deal first with our own heart, he imparts the Spirit of Wisdom so that our words truly are good news.

For more on being led by the Holy Spirit, check out Spiritual Formation.




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