The story is told of an elderly woman who visited a local church one day. When the service drew to a close, this elderly woman in her worn and tattered clothes went forward in order to become a member. The preacher listened to her tell him that she believed in Christ and wanted to be baptized. He also found out that she was still and had been a cleaning woman all of her life.
The preacher thought, “She is so disheveled and she even has a foul odor about her, she cleans toilets for a living – what would the members think of her.” He told her that she needed to go home and pray about it for a while before she was baptized. The next week, here she came again during the invitation. She told the preacher that she had prayed about it and still wanted to be baptized. But the preacher told her to go home and pray some more.
A few weeks later the preacher ran across the elderly woman while out doing some errands. He did not want her to know that he did not want her to join so he asked her why she hadn’t been at church for awhile. “Is everything alright?” he asked her.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I talked with Jesus, and he told me not to worry about becoming a member of your church.”
“He did?” said the preacher a little taken aback.
“Oh, yes,” she replied. “Jesus said even He hasn’t been able to get into your church, and He’s been trying for years.”
Precious few of us ever fully live up to each other’s expectations. The story of the cleaning lady is extreme, but our differences often divide us whether they are based on preference or diversity. Each of us who comprise the body of Christ has a unique background that brings with it unique preferences and idiosyncrasies in our personalities. On many accounts, this diversity brings a greater variety and strength to the body of Christ as a whole. However, on other accounts – it often divides us as well.
When God brought us together into one big family, He joined together people who have a variety of likes and dislikes, interests, dreams and baggage and asked us all to not only get along, but to love one another. We read of this briefly in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). Yet even though we came as Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female and more – in Christ, we have been joined together as one new man (Ephesians 2:15).
Despite our different backgrounds, histories, preferences and the like, God has asked us to live, love, worship and work together while operating in unity as part of the family of God. In order to do that, we have to embrace Paul’s admonition to “accept one another.” We’ve all recited this verse at some point in time, but we have to do more than simply recite it. The myriad of rifts amongst us reveals that precious few of us have actually put flesh on these words of Paul which we read in the book of Romans chapter 15, “Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (v. 7).
We are called as brothers and sisters in Christ to accept one another just as Christ accepted us.