12.12.05

Acceptance - Jesus Army Life, Day 150

Last night I visited my friends place and was just leaving when I bumped into his flatmates outside. Explaining that I was making my way home to bed one of my friends mates invited me back to stay longer, sealing his invitation with the compliment: "you're alright you are."

Cha-ching! I think those words clinched the deal and I stayed for another hour.

A couple of hours before we'd had a new guy round our place. He had been seriously self-harming and, while I was dubious about some of the company he kept, I invited his companion in as well because it was important to send out a message of acceptance rather than rejection.

Acceptance is incredibly important. It is the fuel of friendship. It is the key platform by which relationships are launched; especially among the young. I have a couple of friends who unwittingly do all they can to find the blessing of acceptance. Check that, I have many, many friends who operate on that level. But these two I'm particularly close to: both in their own way are desperate to be loved and both make huge mistakes in trying to win that affection, that is how crucial being accepted is to them. But neither is it the case that the acceptance hoped for is not on offer, it is, very much so.

As a church we have a motto:

All welcome. No prejudice.

In my experience this challenge of accepting others has to be brought down to an individual level. The reason is that the acceptance offered is rarely fully received. Sin (our twisted, Godless state) keeps us trapped in thinking the best fruit is elsewhere. And so it takes time to learn who your true friends are. God seems to spend most of his time helping us realise he loves us, yet we rarely get the message. If only we did. When you know you are loved, you can do anything. Sadly it takes time to learn.

So I've been learning lessons too. Principally I'm learning that being right doesn't help build relationships. If the other party doesn't understand the issue then they are likely to feel that they are the problem. Placing conditions on a friendship is truly destructive if it is not done with that unconditional love which God showed when he allowed himself to be killed to rescue us. Training disciples has to be ruled by the promise, the guarantee of a friendship for better or worse.

For the sake of others, the power of acceptance is a love-lesson we Christians must learn. I long for my two friends to know they're gonna be okay, if they just hang in there everything will be alright, Jesus guarantees it. And along the way there are numerous boxes to be ticked before they may realise they are loved: there's respect, understanding, encouragement, meaningful challenge, acceptance by and of their peer group, quality times, seeing the person not the action. Helping friends to get the point: "I accept you completely, as you are," can feel something like trying to tee-off on a golf range with short sighted vision.

I know there are times when, as a church, we've had to make hard decisions about someone because they've been out of order, but the dangerous message received by their peers can be one of rejection. Being cruel to be kind is necessary if we are to protect what is good, but I'm learning how important it is, if possible, to also avoid reaching that critical point where the message is: 'rejected'. Acceptance is a powerful essential. It matters. End of argument.

How can I show my love, since love is manifested in actions? I will not miss any sacrifice, any gesture of sensitivity, any word. Doing the smallest things out of love I will always sing about it, even though roses are to be taken care of in the midst of thorns.
St. Therese of Lisieux