Words in every language evolve and change. A word used a few years ago can now have a different meaning or nuance, which sometimes raises challenges when writing or speaking. It brings to mind Eliza Doolittle’s line in the song “Show Me” from My Fair Lady, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words!”
One word that has changed meaning is “acceptance.” Decades ago, when I used the word acceptance, it carried a specific understanding (i.e., I could accept a situation without granting it my approval). Today, however, acceptance leaves little room for disagreement. Acceptance has an implied meaning that I must give my approval.
I often would say, “God accepts us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. He is always calling us to a higher place.” The indication was that I could come to God just as I am, with my sin, and He would accept me with the purpose of leading me to repentance (see 2 Corinthians 7:10). However, in our current culture, saying God accepts me can convey the belief that He is okay with my sinful behavior. That is not a true statement.
God is a holy God, and therefore, He can never accept sin. If He did, there would have been no need for the cross of Jesus. Saying God “accepts” me in my sin, does not mean that I have a license to sin and thereby abuse His grace. Paul addresses this in Romans 6. Some Bible translations indicate Paul’s reaction to this belief as “God forbid!” (Romans 6:15 KJV). As a Christian, my sins are forgiven, but obedience and repentance are an ongoing necessity for me to become the man or woman the Father has created me to be.
God’s amazing love allows me to come to Him with my sin. He does not shun me or require me to clean myself off before seeking Him. Believing this to be true can be very difficult for those us who struggle, just as I did, with deep shame and self-hatred. However, He will never accept or condone my sin. It goes against His holy and righteous nature. I never want to embrace a sloppy agape view that since God is love, He, therefore, accepts my sin. If I am walking in my true identity in Christ, I, therefore, pursue a sinless life. John indicates this in I John 2:1, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin” (italics mine).
Given all this, a question for all of us to consider is, “Where am I making room for sin in my life?” Have I been accepting acceptance, meaning that God is okay with the sin in my life?
The intention here is not to place ourselves back under the law, but to acknowledge that living under true grace never makes allowance for sin. That may come across as a hard word, and indeed it would be was it not for the cross of Jesus.
I close with Psalm 139:23-24, which is a frequent prayer in my quiet time:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I encourage you to incorporate this scripture in your quiet time contemplations.
Rev Bob Ragan
Bob Ragan really nailed it. I have never seen it put so succinctly how acceptance and approval have a literally acquired the same meaning. To separate the real meaning of both words and apply it to the situations that are happening today is literally a denial of truth and acceptance of sin, and Jesus is the truth.
Well done. Needed to hear this!