God invites us to come to him just as we are. He accepts us just as we are. He meets us in our doubts, mistakes, brokenness and loneliness with grace and with truth. In this series we are learning from different characters from God’s story about how God met them and how he can meet us. We will learn what it means to extend the same acceptance he gives to us to others and how we can be a church that invites people to come and join us just as they are. We will also be challenged by the God who says “come as you are” that we don’t have to stay that way.
In the second part of this series we are looking at the ‘Struggle with Acceptance.’
The dictionary definition of tolerance says “the ability of willingness to put up with someone or something, especially opinions or behaviour that you may not agree with or people who are not like you.” Our society and culture preaches tolerance but I wonder is that really what we want? To be put up with? I think that there is something way better for us. Don’t we want to be accepted just as we are, valued just as we are? God has created something way better than tolerance and we find clues as to what it is in a beautiful story from the Old Testament. It is about a prophet called Hosea who lived around 750BC. The first three chapters of the book of Hosea contain his personal story and in particular his marriage to Gomer. You can read about it in chapters 1 and 3.
In chapter 1 we read that God calls Hosea to marry someone who is already sleeping around. It seems like a strange request, but Hosea obeys. God wants Hoses to know and feel something of the pain he feels when people turn their backs on him and he wants Hosea’s marriage to be a picture of God’s relationship with human beings.
Hosea marries Gomer and she is unfaithful to him. And a couple of chapters later in chapter 3 we find out what Hosea is going to do about it.
God is the instigator again and he has something way better than tolerance in mind for Hosea and Gomer. It starts with the command to Hosea to GO to her. It is active when tolerance would simply be passive. Hosea is to love Gomer and not to do so begrudgingly but willingly. Hosea accepts Gomer and forgives her. That doesn’t mean he agrees with her behaviour but acceptance and love is not the same as agreeing with or condoning someone’s behaviour. Hosea is to want the best for Gomer and she for him.
This story is not about tolerance, it is about acceptance and grace and it is a picture of how God loves us.
Is tolerance really what we want? I don’t think it is and I don’t believe it’s what we should be settling for or aspiring to as a church. You don’t crave tolerance - being put up with. You crave acceptance and grace and it is available with God.
If you want to explore more about the grace and acceptance God has for you in a friendly and relaxed environment why not sign up for the Alpha course which starts in October. You can sign up via our church website or via the Next Steps area at our Sunday services.
We are also recommending a book and small group resources called No Perfect People Allowed by John Burke. Each chapter includes questions for discussion in small group settings.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion (on your own or in your small group)
Why do you think we so often crave acceptance, value and worth? Do you ever feel like that?
Where do you go to find acceptance?
Do you agree that our society and culture is ‘preaching tolerance’ and do you agree that is isn’t enough? What does it mean tolerate someone? Is that what you want…to be tolerated?
As you read the story of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer what do you think God was trying to do?
How did it make Hosea feel for Gomer to cheat on him? Why do you think God wanted Hosea to go to her?
When you read chapter 3 verses 1 to 3 what are the things that Hosea needs to do to exhibit grace rather than tolerance?
- How does this mirror what God does for us? How does it make you feel to know that God reaches out to us with grace not tolerance?