Monday, August 6, 2018

The Power of Acceptance

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine about leaving my former church. I told him just how wounded and rejected I felt when my congregation refused to accept me for who I am and instead rejected me. My friend said that I should have expected this. Since I grew up in that denomination and I knew their stance on LGBT issues, it should not have come as any surprise to me that they would reject me and maybe I should have left sooner.

He had a valid point. Logically seen from a distance and with time as my perspective, it should not have come as any surprise to me that I would have faced rejection in my former church.

If I were a computer, that would be the end of the story. The update to my system made me incompatible with the old hardware. My changing theology and beliefs were at odds with my church. I should have expected to be rejected. It almost felt as if he were saying, "It's your fault you feel this way." However, I am not an automaton. It is impossible for me to look at things purely from a logical stance, especially when it comes to faith.

When I felt that rejection, it was as if I no longer mattered. I became a second-class citizen, unworthy of worshipping or being a member of that denomination. This seemed to me to reject Christ's call to love and accept all.

Some people had asked me why I had stayed so long in a denomination which discriminates against the LGBT community. Others were surprised that I stayed so long.

I grew up in that denomination. It formed the basis of my belief. I wanted to be able to see their "theology of service" mirror their "theology of worship." They simply could not see how accepting the LGBT community would not compromise their beliefs. To them the LGBT community was at best a group of people to be pitied and at worst, the ultimate threat to Christianity. Those members and clergy who are in the LGBT community are some of the most scrutinized I know.

Divine Acceptance

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 CEB) Jesus' message of love began with accepting those whom society had rejected. Jesus' message of repentance included an exhortation to love others as he had loved us. To me, that is the message of the Gospel:  God loves. Because God loves us, we should love others.

So what happens when one is rejected by one's faith group? For me it was a bitter as divorce. I went through grief, at one point, wishing I hadn't gone through this, but at the same time, realizing I no longer had a choice.

At the same time, I found almost immediately another church that accepted me for who I was with no condemnation. Even then, though, it was still a hard struggle to come to the decision to become a member of my new church.

I still remember, sitting down for lunch with the Reverend Phil Snider, pastor of Brentwood Christian Church. I remember that if I were to find a church where I was accepted, I needed to be upfront with everything I had gone through. I remember how anxious I felt when I told him that I was bisexual. I was relieved and a bit shocked when he acted like this was an interesting piece of information, but it didn't change the fact that he accepted me as I was.

Do you know how empowering and freeing that is to be accepted just as you are?

When we accept people for who they are, they experience not only our love, but they encounter the love of God.

For many people, acceptance is so close to love that it is virtually identical.

How much more wonderful when people realize that there acceptance is only the beginning of love!

photo credit: Jeanne Menjoulet acceptance matters via photopin (license)

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