The Acceptance Paradox


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This week, Pastor Donnell presented us with a paradox. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a paradox is a situation where two seemingly inconsistent things are both true at the same time.) Practically, when we encounter a paradox, we tend to focus on one or the other of the two truths, minimizing the other one. The paradox in this case is: 1) God accepts us just as we are, and 2) he calls us to be transformed (in other words, to change or be different). This is rarely the case with human relationships. We fully accept people that we like, or we accept them to the extent that we like who they are and what they do. We don’t tend to accept people whose personality or lifestyle irks us. Familial relationships can sometimes come closer to God’s approach to us. But when spouses, parents, children or siblings do something which really bothers us, our “acceptance” of them suffers.

So living the paradox of God’s acceptance and call for our transformation is difficult. We can get inklings from our human relationships, but eventually we have to move beyond our experience of them to grow in our relationship with God.

When you have 10-15 minutes free, read the following two Bible passages which focus on God’s love for us before we have done anything. Be aware of your feelings as you read the text.
From chapter 3 of the gospel of John:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


From Chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Did you feel good, undeserving, fearful, excited, concerned about what might come next? Does anything in the text reach into your personal experience? Jot down your strongest feelings, questions, concerns.

Next we read a text about God’s expectation for our transformation from chapter 9 of the gospel of Luke.
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self?

Again, be aware of your feelings as you read this second text. Did you feel good, undeserving, fearful, excited, concerned about what might come next? Does this text touch something in your background? Jot down your strongest feelings, questions, concerns.

Read them both through again, more slowly this time. Do you resonate with one angle of this paradox more than the other? Talk to God about the half that you resonate with. Particularly share any joy or appreciation you feel in this area. Also talk to God about the other half of the paradox. Particularly share any concerns, problems or fears that you might have.

Take a minute or two just to sit quietly with God about all of this. Be open to any sense of how God might be relating to you at this moment.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing:

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