Love and Acceptance
Love is probably the hardest word to understand. Is it a verb? Is it a feeling? Is it just a fleeting moment? Is it kindness? Is it romantic?
Over the years I’ve tried my best to understand what the Bible says about love itself. But time after time, love just unveils itself into different kind of forms. Let’s break it down into the most basic understanding first.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 12:30–31
When I first encountered this verse, I thought that loving others as yourself means that you treat others as how I want to be treated. If I want people to be kind to me, then be kind to others. If I want people to appreciate me, then I appreciate them first. If I want people to take care of me during hard times, then I’d be there for them at their hardest times. But then is that really love? Or is it just a form of sow and reap?
Seven years as a disciple and a Christian, I tried my best to perform love with the ‘sow and reap’ understanding. Until the day I discovered a deeper form of love that is in a whole other language.
Within the start of this year, I’ve just settled in the church in Bandung. Making a commitment to put my anchor here through serving and building the ministry. It was full of zeal and dreams at the start. But as I go along, challenges and trials faced me. To the point that I question my being here.
One of the toughest trials to deal with is loving one specific person in my small group. I’ve helped her to go through every single trials in her life. Supported her financially. Came by her place when things get rough. It feels like I’ve braved through the storm and hails and any kind of wind, just to help her to get back to her feet. Everytime she falls, I do everything it takes for her to get up.
Two to three months into doing so, nothing’s changed. She continually falls and became weak spiritually without having any will to make things up with God. And me? I’m left being so drained out and exhausted. I feel like I’ve done my best and everything I could to help her get back to her feet. I never left her alone. I never stopped caring. But it came to the point where enough was enough. I’m done with loving this sister.
When I shared this to my discipler, she showed me Romans 15. Right after I begged her, why can’t I just let this sister to find her own path? Why can’t we just stop helping her? Isn’t she a stumbling block to others? She doesn’t even want to listen to anything I say anymore!
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself.” — Romans 15:1–3
I was so mad that this verse existed in the Bible. Why? Why do we have to bear the failings of the weak? And even more so, I was banned from pleasing myself! I couldn’t please myself because Christ did the same thing. I knew in the deepest part of my heart that I wanted to please myself — through not having to care about her life. It would make my life so much easier. I can focus on other things that makes me happy. Before continuing my thought, I read on the whole chapter and came accross this verse:
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” — Romans 15:7
That was it. I couldn’t argue anymore. Christ has accepted me when I was still a sinner. He has accepted my weakness, my failings, my flaws, my everything. He never complained how many times I’ve fallen. He never complained when I still insist on having things my way.
My heart was sold. Looking back to my seven years as a Christian, there was not a single time that God didn’t accept me. It was through acceptance that I could understand love. To me, personally, acceptance is the higher form of love.
God has accepted me as who I am. A sinner, a prideful soul, a wreck, a person with too ambitious visions, an egoistic girl who only cares about herself, a person with 1000 negative thoughts a day, a person who only wants to pursue pleasures for herself, a person who only wants the world to herself. Is it fair that when God has accepted and loved me as who I am, but I can’t accept others that God has entrusted me to love?
Through accepting others, it’s when I truly understand the meaning to love others as you love yourself. My form of love is to be accepted by God and my closest friends, so my act of love to others is to accept them by their flaws and weaknesses.
This is truly beyond personal. When I see how I have helped this sister, how may storms and hails I had to go through to help her, maybe that’s what God feels when He was reaching his hand toward me but I didn’t even want to look at Him. It breaks my heart.
Once I’ve understood acceptance as a form of love, it gave me the strength to love others as deeply as how God has loved me through never giving up on me.