Collectively the exchanges between God, Adam and Eve form the classic description of the human condition. Forgetful of reality, we are alienated from ourselves, others and most especially God. Doubting the simplicity of God’s love for us produces shame and pain to the form of blame. Returning to the simplicity of God’s love means grasping the power of God’s continued acceptance of us.
In Sin our exaggerated fears distort all of our relationships. Contrary to Eve’s fears, God does not want to keep us dumb and under his thumb. Jesus counseled his followers to be as “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matt 10:16).” He tells the parable of the dishonest steward to encourage his disciples to be at least as clever as an embezzler. The nature of God’s love is to respect us and encourage us to use our gifts. Thinking God wanted to keep her young and dumb forever was just false. We may begin our walk as babes in the faith, but God wants adult friends not overgrown babies.
The Hebrew word for sin means “to miss the mark.” It comes from archery training. Without outside help we will miss the mark. The way we stand, the way we naturally hold a bow, the way we look at a target all include subtle misalignments. Without realizing it or being aware of why, we are not aimed where we think we are and we are quite helpless to see the problems. Realize it or not, we need a coach.
The same is true in the spiritual life. Our thoughts are so familiar to us, so every day, that we will not see how they separate us from God, others and ourselves without help. One of the effects of meditation is to measure our habits of thought against what God has told us is true. Having a Christian friend, Spiritual Guide or being a part of a small group gets us the coaching we need. As Christians we also know that God will coach us through the Holy Spirit if we ask.
Most people would rather work it out with God and leave the other people out of the equation. That is only natural. However, natural is broken and separated from others. That is the nature of sin. You cannot work out issues about acceptance without being with other people. We can be totally certain that God knows our shame and loves us anyway, but until we also have people in our lives that do the same we remain separated. We overcome the power of sin when we find others we can trust with our hearts. The ministry of acceptance is powerful. You can see this power in the lives of the Apostles.
Let’s take a look at Matthew 9:9-13, the calling of Matthew.
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Now here is the point of the story. It is not so much about Matthew as it is about the reaction of the church folk. The religious people were just thrilled that Matthew had returned to the faith. He had done so much harm and now he could do so much good. They could see immediately the wisdom of God in touching Matthew though the ministry of this itinerate preacher named Jesus.
Wrong. They were confused and angry. Odd. They saw the power of God to change a life and their response was “What!” The idea of having to sit in church with the likes of Matthew made their skin crawl. God measures the health of a congregation by its ability to accept the past of anyone who visits. God measures the health of a congregation by its ability to encourage people today to become God’s person as they step into tomorrow.
This acceptance thing also extends to reality. Remember the story of Adam and Eve is also the story of losing touch with the real world. You and I need the courage to accept what is that we cannot change and focus instead on what we can.
As a young man I thought I was entitled to good health because I was thin. Overweight people deserved bad health. That is the way it was, or so I thought at the time.
One day as I was meditating on God’s love as acceptance. I had remembered several lovely moments with people. I had seen God in the midst of my relationship was glad to be God’s person. Then I saw the face of a man whose elderly wife just had broken her hip. I was not sure who he was and did not remember meeting her. But he had called clearly in distress so off I went to the hospital. What I remembered was walking into the room where he was waiting. He was huge. I could hear myself thinking, “Your hip is next fatso” or some equally inappropriate thought. I wonder if I was having an issue with God over acceptance!
After the operation was finished and she was out of the recovery room, I went into the room she was in. She was thin. No way! She should be OK. Jack deserved the broken hip!!! SHE WAS THIN. No way!
Sometimes it is just embarrassing to be a person. I was out of sync with reality.
This Coming Week:
Somewhere in your life you may have a similar issue, a false belief about how the world works that gets between you and the people God is asking you to love. If you already accept the world we live in and embrace others freely, beautiful. God is grateful each time you use your gift. If you struggle with acceptance, great! This coming week will be fabulous for you.
First, read 1 Samuel 16: 7b and Matthew 9: 9-13.
Memorize the following:
“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7b
In your prayers this week, if you discover that you have harsh feelings towards someone ask God,
“Lord, what do you want me to see about my refusal to accept _____.”
Ask God to handle that part of your life. If you are a part of a Christian group terrific. Your family in Christ will be a great encouragement to you.