yaholoI met the guy with the interesting name of Yaholo by stumbling upon an article he published on the Red Letter Christians site titled ‘Let’s end our silly battle for Jesus’ personality’ and then his ‘Putting God in a box to keep people out’ sounded a lot like my ‘God is bigger than my box, He’s bigger than my theology, He’s bigger than my understanding, He’s bigger than me’ statement and song that I would often make groups sing before I spoke to them. So i took a chance and contacted Yaholo and asked him if he would consider writing a guest post for my blog… and here it is:

“You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.” – Mr. Rogers

If someone were to ask you what the most controversial or divisive subject among Christians was, you might pull out the usual suspects like abortion, LGBT rights, or long-standing theological debates like water baptism and penal substitution. However, I have found the most controversial expression which riles up the blood is “accepting people just the way they are.” The debate is not just whether or not we should “accept people,” what what “accepting” even means

What Does “Accepting Others Just They Way They Are” Mean?

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. – Matthew 7:1-2

To live “without judgement” means that we do not condemn or condone. We reject the “eyes of man” which looks upon others according to their circumstances, appearance, or behavior. We look at people with the eyes of the Holy Spirit, which sees in everyone as a Child of God. Wherever people are in a moment is irrelevant, each person is valued and loved in the sight of heaven.

To “accept people as they are” is to see through whatever externalities surround them, look right into the soul and say “you are important.” As such, we make no excuse to alienate them, reject them, shame them, or diminish them.  We find every reason to show hospitality, respect, appreciation, and thankfulness of their presence.

Accepting People is NOT “Moral Relativism”

One of the biggest accusations thrown out in the plea for our society to become more accepting of others is that somehow doing so is throwing out our sense of morality or truth. Quite the contrary, accepting people as they are, wherever they are, into our culture, society, and organizations IS a declaration of truth. It is an affirmation of the love of Christ and states that people are more important than ideology. The truth that all people matter and have value is a more important truth than any theological dispute.

True Christian Morality is NOT a List of “Do’s and Don’ts” It IS Loving One Another

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12

Jesus Christ and the Apostles never defined morality as a list of good and bad things to do. Christian morality has always been about how we treat one another. Therefore, to accept others “as they are” is not a belief that morality is ambiguous, but that treating each other with respect, dignity, and appreciation IS morality. We do not examine our own spiritual health by our ability to “avoid temptation” but by our ability to show the love of Christ to others.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is Still Hateful

This expression has been used to justify pure hate, judgement, and condemnation under the auspice of personal detachment. In other words, “I am treating you like a dog because of your sin, not you.” The truth is that at any given time we all have plenty of sin, immaturity, and corruption in our own lives. How hypocritical is it then that we make others feel so bad for sins which are simply more apparent or culturally less acceptable than our own?

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:4-5

So Do We Just Stop Trying to Change People?

Short answer, yes. No one can change people accept the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Long answer, we have a lot we can do to improve a person’s life and show them the love of Christ. The key difference is that only a judge tries to change a person’s life, our calling is to participate in the lives of others. We never rescue or “save” another person, we connect with our neighbors and those around that we all may continue to become whole (holy) together. It is our privilege and honor to affect good in the life of another.

So What’s the Point of Preaching the Gospel?

If you are asking about the “Good News” then there is a great purpose for it. If you are talking about “Sinner in the Hand of an Angry God” then no, not so much. Most (if not all) of the sin in this world is a void of love. People lost in self-destructive habits, despair, depression, or unstable relationships are not needing reminded of how “bad” they are. Most of people already believe they are useless, worthless, and unloved. Our job is to fight this darkness with the message of God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice for us, and then take VERY seriously our call to demonstrate it.

Understandings of Acceptance

  • Our job is not “fix” or “change” people, but to always, intentionally, and consistently participate in the lives of others. Most well meaning Christians experience “good samaritan” burnout. They interfere in another “lost person’s” life in hopes of changing it, and then get disillusioned and cynical when they don’t “succeed.” This was never our calling. We do not have the capacity to know what a “fixed life” looks like, we do not know how an individual needs to grow, such things are God’s alone. We must only take responsibility for our own selves, and constantly bring the love of Christ into the world.

  • Individuals must figure life out for themselves and be graciously allowed to do so. Persuading someone of one thing or another, means they will eventually leave it. If someone does arrive to an understanding on their own time, in their own way, then there is NO understanding. The evidence of truth is example, we show Christ to others and give light to follow, we must not persuade, proselytize, or persecute.

  • Those living in what we call “sinful habits” are usually people just trying to survive. They are surviving emotionally, financially, and socially. Our job is not to judge or condemn such behavior but to see it as a sign that our help and participate is required. We seek to relieve the burdens of the lost, sick, and drowning that they might be able to grow of their own effort.

  • Few of us ever really discover our gifts, talents, and purpose. If there is any obvious ministry of the Church community, helping people discover their own value is sacrosanct. We cannot rest in our society or communities until we learn to help everyone discover their value and find an exalted place among us. Such things are not meant for a few, but for everyone. Those of us who become “realized” as individuals must labor to help others do the same.

  • People cannot believe in a loving God without believing in love. If they have never been shown love, how can we ask them to believe in our Gospel? Love is the evidence of Christ in our world, without an abundance of love, hospitality, and acceptance how can we proclaim anything else?

[To read more from today’s guest, Yaholo, check out his blog over here]