We’ve all had a moment where we don’t like what someone stands for. Maybe we don’t even like them at all. But there is a major difference between liking someone’s beliefs and learning to accept them. Navigating the waters of acceptance and respect to see the best in people is a crucial relational attribute, especially because it’s often irrelevant today.
I see this happen all the time. People don’t like Elon Musk’s personal beliefs and forgo the fact that he is one of the greatest engineers and inventors of the 21st century. Others don’t like that Lebron James is outspoken with his political beliefs and can’t see past it to respect his greatness in the sport of basketball. I could go on with examples, but I think you get it. We like to hold on to our opinions and let those opinions form beliefs.
I strongly believe that we must learn to look past differences and find ways to respect other people. Of course, it is easier when someone like Musk has skills and achievements worth respecting, but the same goes for your neighbor or your own family. Even the church deals with this, as theological or political differences can often tear people away from each other. But whether your differences are with your church family or your rival, accepting them can help bring about peace in your heart and the hearts of others. As Paul admonishes us in Romans, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, to bring praise to God.” (Rom. 15:7)
Acceptance is a powerful trait because it communicates the ultimate respect. It shares the respect that human beings created by God are due each other. But at the same time, acceptance does not mean you cannot stand your ground on important issues or have healthy disagreements. In his book, GodSpace, Doug Pollack shares the difference between acceptance and endorsement. You can accept a person without endorsing their behavior and their beliefs, even if you know that their actions are wrong. Knowing the difference between the two can save us from judgement and move us toward peaceful relationships.
It’s a beautiful moment when people learn to come together because they accept each other. It’s even more unifying when you know that those people could fight tooth and nail on the issues they disagree on, but they have chosen to look past differences and accept each other. Be a person that accepts people, just as God accepted us when he took the brute pain of being nailed to a cross for us. If he can endure death to welcome us into his family, we can do the same to others.