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YOU ARE ACCEPTED (Paul Tillich)

  The Lord your God chose you out of all nations on earth to be his special
possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation
that the Lord cared for you and chose you... it was because the Lord loved
you.

    Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the
womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.'

    The Lord says, 'When Israel was a child, I loved him and called him out
of Egypt as my son... How can I give you up Israel7 How can I abandon
you?... My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong.

    The one who comes to me I will not cast out. Neither do I condemn you;
go, and do not sin again.

    God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this
to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all:
everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the
free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus,
who sets them free.

    Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted
you.

(Deuteronomy 7:6-7, NEB; Jeremiah 1:4-5, RSV; Hosea 11:1,8, GNB; John 6:37,
RSV; John 8:11, RSV; Romans 3:22-24, GNB; Romans 15:7, GNB)

~~~

One of our most basic needs is to be accepted. When others recognise and
value us we feel alive and fulfilled. We need acceptance just as birds need
air and fish need water.

Who cannot recall the nervous tension of the first day at a new school or a
new job? When we move to a strange location how greatly we long to be
accepted by our new neighbours. Advertisers can play on this need, telling
us that if only we wear this, smoke that or drink this we will be part of
the 'in' group.

The church is God's answer for our need to belong. Our gospel speaks of a
God who accepts us as we are. Then we are capable of accepting others, even
as Christ has accepted us. Barriers are down. We belong. Of course the world
has not yet seen it as it ought to be. We are all slow learners in the
church, the 'school for sinners': most of us are in the remedial class. But
the first and absolute necessity is that we can accept that we are accepted.
To grow in that awareness is to grow into the potential of truly accepting
others. 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself,' says God.

~~~

Whenever one finds an individual who has become a fount of bitterness,
taunting and criticising people, saying cruel things that wound the hearts
of friends, one may be sure that he is dealing with someone who hates
himself, who loathes and despises himself, and that the bitterness
manifested by such a person is but the projection of his own contempt for
himself.

J.S. Bonnell, Pastoral Psychiatry


As for others and the world around him he never ceased in his heroic and
earnest endeavour to love them, to be just to them, to do them no harm, for
the love of his neighbour was as strongly forced upon him as the hatred of
himself, and so his whole life was an example that the love of one's
neighbour is not possible without love of oneself, and that self-hate is
really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same
cruel isolation and despair.

Description of Harry Haller, character in Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse


The act of self-acceptance is the root of all things. I must agree to be the
person who I am. Agree to have the qualifications which I have. Agree to
live within the limitations set for me... The clarity and the courageousness
of this acceptance is the foundation of all existence.

Romano Guardini, from his essay 'The Acceptance of Oneself'


Jesus says to us, in effect: Accept yourself as God accepts you; be
yourself, love yourself properly. Take off your darkcoloured glasses and see
yourself not as superior or inferior to anyone else, but as you, a person
who matters. You were not meant to go through life on your hands and knees,
you were meant to walk tall. You are more significant, stronger, wiser and
more creative than you think. I am with you to help you, and to give you
life to the full.

W. Scott McPheat, Coping with Life


The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself as accepted in spite of
being unacceptable... this is the genuine meaning of the Paulinian-Lutheran
doctrine of 'justification by faith'.

Paul Tillich, The Courage To Be


Sometimes at that moment [of despair] a wave of light breaks into our
darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: 'You are accepted. You
are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you...'

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations


There are many religions which know no divine welcome to the sinner until he
has ceased to be one. They would first make him righteous, and then bid him
welcome to God. But God in Christ first welcomes him, and so makes him
penitent and redeems him. The one demands newness of life; the other imparts
it. The one demands human righteousness as the price of divine atonement;
the other makes atonement in order to evoke righteousness.

J.S. Whale, Christian Doctrine


God loves you as though you are the only person in the world, and he loves
everyone the way he loves you.

St Augustine


The whole doctrine of justification by faith hinges, for me, upon my
painfully reluctant realisation that my Father is not going to be more
pleased with me when I am good than when I am bad. He accepts me and
delights in me as I am. It is ridiculous of him, but that is how it is
between us.

John V. Taylor, The Go-Between God


Jesus loves me! This I know For the Bible tells me so.

Anna Warner


Christ accepts us as we are... But when he accepts us, we cannot remain as
we are. Acceptance is nothing but the first step of love. Then it exposes us
to a process of growth. Being accepted by the love of Christ means being
transformed.

Walter Trobisch, Love Yourself


Four stages of growth in Christian maturity: l. love of self for self's sake
2. love of God for self's sake 3. love of God for God's sake 4. love of self
for God's sake.

Bernard of Clairvaux


This fourth step was what shocked me at first, but as I reflected on it I
realised the medieval saint was exactly right. The hardest thing about God
to love is the fact that he made me, and to come to accept this and love
this is the greatest challenge facing most of us.

John Claypool, The Light Within You


Prayer:

Lord, the wonder of your grace always amazes me. There is a part of me which
still finds it hard to believe. Somehow it seems to reverse all religious
protocol. You love me as I am, grubby and outrageous, and without my first
having to wash my hands and comb my hair.  You have accepted me, completely.
No reserve. Just as I am without one plea.

    But. There always has to be a 'But'. This is a 'But' of grace. It does
not follow logic but is the dictate of love. 'But that thy blood was shed
for me'. So I am accepted, as I am, because of Jesus and not because I am
good enough. Even as a child I sang, and believed, 'There was no other good
enough to pay the price of sin'.

    Why do I still find it so hard to accept acceptance? Is it the pride
that is the root of all my sin?

    Lord, here today I want to sing of your amazing grace that accepts me. I
am so often defeated by the memory of my own rebellion, by disgust at my
indifference, by shame at my weakness. How can you love me? I don't even
like myself when I see myself as I really am.

    But then you really do tell me in Jesus' words that you love the real
me. May your word of acceptance lift me to that love of self which is so
different from egoism and which is only ever possible because you first
loved me.

    Help me to accept others just as they are. Not to be indifferent to
their need to change but to begin with them just as you have begun with me.
Show me how really to open up to others and not to fear my vulnerability.

    So may my relationship with you shape my relationships with others --
accepting, loving, encouraging.


A Benediction

May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you, assuring you
that in love the Heavenly Father fully accepts you and that the Holy Spirit
is changing you into the person who can accept all others as Gods children.

All the above from Rowland Croucher, Still Waters Deep Waters,
(Albatross/Lion) chapter 15.

~~~

DISCUSS:

1. The basic axiom about self-esteem relates to the issue of  'Who gives you
your grade?' Why is it so difficult to 'rewrite the script' when powerful
people have helped us define our worth throughout childhood and beyond?

2. '"PBA" - Performance Based Acceptance - means that you base your hopes
that
somebody likes you on the basis of how well you are performing. It happens
at home, in school, with friends, at your work... Is it inevitable?

3. When I (Rowland Croucher) am asked 'What's the cause of pastors and
parishioners having conflict?' one answer is: 'There's a mismatch of
expectations and reality - perhaps both ways.' How in the church can we
match a theology of acceptance with the reality of  judgment-by-performance?

4. "Most people are more 'against' those who deny half their creed than
those
who deny the whole of it" (Who said that?). Is it true? Why?

5. 'Terrorists are people who think they have the whole truth, and anyone
who
doesn't share it is a legitimate target... Most of us believe that no-one
has the absolute truth... That life is a journey toward truth, that we have
something to learn from each other; and that everybody ought to have a
chance to make the journey.. So, for us, a community is made up of anybody
who accepts the rules of the game. Everybody counts, everybody has a role to
play, everybody deserves a chance and we all do better when we work
together...' (Bill Clinton, 2001 BBC Dimbleby Lecture). Is that just too
naive?

6. "Open membership churches feel that their 'closed' counterparts are
legalistic, putting adherance to a particular doctrinal interpretation ahead
of accepting others whom God has accepted. This criticism surely has
validity. Closed membership is a denial not only of our Baptist principle of
the liberty of individuals to be guided by the Holy Spirit, perhaps into
another point of view, but is, above all, a denial of the Christian good
news about God's grace." (See
http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm/athe/athe0090.htm for the whole article).
This statement is a reference to the many Baptists (and others) who insist
on
baptism as a prerequisite to acceptance into church membership. How does
this square with the
biblical notion of 'Grace'?

7. '"Accept one another". There are persons who we like to have around.
There are others who are "only tolerated"... "Birds of a feather flock
together". But why? People who are like us, who think the same thoughts...
confirm us.' (Jurgen Moltmann, The Open Church, pp. 28-30). So how do we
accept people we don't like, or who are 'handicapped' in some way?

8. 'Like all children I had always wanted my mother's blessing...But my
mother is not grace to herself; therefore she simply doesn't have it in her
to give to anybody else. I have finally let her off the hook. That whole
experience has helped clarify for me what grace is and how we are finally
accepted.' (John Claypool, Interview in The Wittenberg Door, date unknown).
Can you relate to that?

9. Talk about God's acceptance of us - 'while we were yet sinners...' Think
on this: 'He loves you just the way you are today/ but much too much to let
you stay that way./ When he's changed your heart from what you were before/
He still won't love you one bit more.'

10. And finally this, from Dom Helder Camara's amazing little book  'A
Thousand Reasons for Living' (p.93). 'Let me not be the door / for going to
my neighbour, /for bringing him to me/ and forcing him/ to walk along my
paths,/ to make my way-in his/ and have to use my keys./ If my door is
Christ,/ what matters is/ that I should help each brother/ to travel to the
Father/ and yet still be himself.'

Rowland Croucher
February 2002.


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