As each new year arrives, I take a strategic look ahead and consider what challenges the upcoming twelve months hold. I do not rely on proprietary intelligence or any “thus sayeth the Lord” insight. Rather from a daily commitment during the previous year to being a son of Issachar, I strive to gain an “understanding of the times” and “knowledge of what ought to be done.” (see 1 Chronicles 12:32) This cannot be accomplished by vainly repeating memes and tropes and instead requires the critical thinking skills of which I have written and presented.
The year 2023 will bring an increasing call “to be accepting” of things and worldviews that not too many years ago would have seemed unimaginable. Lines are being crossed that expose our children to things in which I have never participated or even considered. We see the vilification of parents for merely wanting input and influence on the educational and medical decisions for their own children. The light is dimming indeed.
When I negotiate a contract, the parties sign the final agreement acknowledging and agreeing to the terms therein. Once each “accepts” the agreement, neither party can change it. This is the central idea of acceptance – by accepting some idea, there is no authority or energy to change anything. In particular, the modern expectation is to accept a person for who they are or how they are. By accepting them, there is no desire to change them. Some mischaracterize the Gospel with the phrase “accept and receive.” The Gospel is morphed from “repent and believe” (see Acts 20:21) to the idea that we accept His Divine terms, thereby we receive forgiveness and eternal life. I suspect that this sloppy use of the word “accept” has weakened our discernment at the ubiquitous use of the word today, as well as the power of the Gospel.
Said plainly, no verse of the Bible obligates the believer to be accepting. Romans 14:1 (see also Romans 15:7) talks about receiving one that is weak in the faith and who is otherwise committed to keeping strictly the law of God. The chapter continues talking about eating meat or drinking wine, esteeming one day above others, or similar activities that cause your brother to stumble. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another.” This chapter provides a pause to those who cannot accept the one who is meticulously preoccupied with the laws and rules of the Bible. The idea has pivoted in these last days away from this idea of receiving the weaker in the faith.
So here is the point: there is no passage in the Bible in which I can insist that I be accepted as I am. Quite the opposite. It is clear from countless verses that God is in the business of changing me and transforming me. What follows is a sample of some of these verses:
To the praise of the glory of His grace wherein He hath made (me) accepted in the beloved
Being confident of this very thing that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform (accomplish) it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
But we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Can you think of others? They abound throughout the Bible. I find nothing in the Bible that I can rely on to insist you accept me the way I am. I find nothing in the Bible that obligates me to accept you the way you are. This Biblical truth flies in the face of the daily messaging of a culture intent on making acceptance a noble and even moral obligation. As a teacher, I never expected a student to hand in the same work at the end of the academic year than she would have turned in at the beginning. I would have failed as a coach if one of my players was no better at the end of the season than he was at the beginning of a season. A doctor fails to maintain a practice where patients are accepted with the conditions presented at the initial appointment with no expectation or treatment for improvement.
Words matter, and the critical thinker considers the use and misuse of these words. I hope this article disabuses you of the idea of “acceptance” as it is used in today’s conversation and that you are better equipped in 2023 to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”