Babe Ruth, who had hit 714 home runs during his baseball career, was playing one of his last major league games. The aging star was playing for the Boston Braves against the Cincinnati Reds. He was having a particularly bad day and his errors in one inning were responsible for five Reds runs. As the Babe walked off the field after the third out, booing and catcalls were heard from the stands. Just then a young boy jumped over the railing onto the field. With tears in his eyes, he threw his arms around the legs of his hero. Ruth didn't hesitate. He picked up the boy, hugged him and set him down with a playful pat on the head. Suddenly the booing stopped and a hush fell over the entire park. In those brief moments, the crowd saw a different kind of hero; a man who in spite of a dismal day on the field could still care about a little boy. He was no longer judged by his accomplishments, neither the past successes nor the present failures, but by a completely different standard. Suddenly it was not his works that mattered, but a relationship.
There is a great need for acceptance. Chuck Swindoll made this observation about people and a local bar, "The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the need to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers."
Roman 15:7 exhorts believers to "accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God." The context indicates that those who are spiritually mature should care for the young or weaker believers. The Greek word “accept” means to take hold of or grasp, to take into one's possession, or to receive another person into one's home or circle. After Paul’s ship was wrecked just off the coast of Malta, “the natives showed extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and accepted us all” (Acts 28:2). Paul implores Philemon to lovingly take back his runaway slave Onesimus, “if then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me” (Philemon 1:17). Thus, Biblical acceptance is warmly receiving others into your life & treating them with love, respect, and understanding. Acceptance is a choice that is based upon Christ love, not on physical appearance, personality, social status, achievements, or ability.
Why don’t we accept others? First, we fail to accept others because we are insensitive (we focus mainly on our needs). The ugly head of selfishness will deter acceptances, and we become oblivious to the needs of others. Second, we fail to tolerate different personalities, appearances, practices, and habits of others. Pure and simple, we are prejudice. In the musical My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins encounters frustration whenever Lyla Doolittle does not measure up to his expectations and standards. Exasperated, he sings: “Why can’t a woman take after a man? Why can’t a woman be like you? Why can’t a woman be like us? Why can’t a woman be like me?” The amusing lyrics reveal that people are intolerant to the habits, activities, personalities of others. Third, we fail to accept others, because we might be jealous of them or what they have.
It is discouraging and depressing to feel unaccepted in the midst of a mass of people (even in a church). Thus, why is acceptance so important? First, acceptance provides emotional support and encouragement. All of us need people who will stand by our side, build us up, and accept us just the way we are. Second, acceptance provides personal stability. Without others we turn increasingly inward. People keep us from isolation by forcing us into communication, commitments and expression. And third, acceptance provides physical longevity. James House, professor at the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center found that being with other people significantly increased life expectancy. Even Paul McCarthy and John Lennon realized, "I get by with a little help from my friends." We are not islands, but people who need one another. And acceptance is a key to building up the body of Christ.
-Pastor Mike Kotrla