Acceptance is not Approval

Photo by Csaba Talaber on Unsplash

I remember one day as a kid riding to church with my family, and something ahead caught our attention.  In the ditch on the side of the road was a small puppy.  He was stuck in the ditch unable to climb out.  My brothers and I asked our dad to pull over, and let’s pick up that puppy.  Typical childhood wishes right?  Today, I’m not sure what made my dad actually pull over, but he did.  I was intrigued and excited to maybe have a new pet.  Dad put the dog in the back of the truck, and we carried it back home.  I watched it try to keep its balance, and heard it yelp occasionally as we drove back.  He was some type of hound with dark brown, floppy ears and a white coat with brown spots.  I had already accepted this puppy into our family.  We named him Fred.

I noticed Fred had some issues.  He certainly wasn’t healthy.  It looked as if he hadn’t eaten in days.  His skeleton seemed overly pronounced along his whole body.  He needed food.  He needed water.  His rear leg was broken.  He needed help or he would certainly die.  We left him water and food, and then we hurried to church.  We were late, but we had accepted a new member to the family.

Over the years Fred grew healthy and we enjoyed spending time with him outside.  He could run as fast as a bullet and would run circles of excitement around us.  His life changed because we welcomed him into our family.  But he’s lucky we didn’t stop there. We also restored him to health.  We accepted him as he was, but we did not approve of his condition, so we changed it.  Acceptance does not require approval.  Often acceptance requires change for the better. 

Too often we confuse acceptance and approval in our relationships.  We either expect to be accepted as we are, without change, or we expect someone to change before they are accepted.  The truth is that we are all in need of restoration because we are all broken. 

The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus, the Son of God, accepts us as we are but doesn’t leave us as we are – he changes us.  In the gospel of John 8:11, Jesus tells a woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”  This woman was dragged out of the act of adultery into the street to be stoned for her brokenness and sin.  Jesus did not throw a stone.  He confronted the accusers about their sin and challenged them to throw the first stone.  They walked away. 

Jesus accepted the woman because she’s human.  Her brokenness in sin did not keep Jesus from her.  But His acceptance wasn’t approval.  He told her to go and sin no more, to leave her past behind and be changed. 

Jesus offers the same to you and me.  He accepts you, forgives you, and calls you to live a changed life following Him.  No matter your past or your present, Jesus changes everything. 

Beloved, I encourage you to accept others – the sinner, the saint, the stranger, the son, the daughter – as Jesus accepts you.  Forgive as He has forgiven you. 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

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