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*Frequently asked questions*
The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan
1. What are you referring to by "acceptance"?
There are different directions of acceptance - our acceptance by God, our acceptance of ourselves, our acceptance of others, and our acceptance by others. All these things affect our well being.
2. Could you please explain all these a little more?
Acceptance by God is the most fundamental and important aspect. An assurance that God has accepted us can give us such a deep security that nothing else can match, because God is the One who counts in the ultimate analysis. On the contrary, if we are unsure about God accepting us, we will be insecure and uncertain about every aspect of our life. Acceptance by God is also the most important factor that determines our eternal future.
Accepting ourselves is the next most important aspect of life. This means that we have come to see our strengths, weaknesses and limitations, and learned to live with them in a realistic way. Then we neither have unrealistically high expectations from ourselves nor do we suffer from low self esteem.
Accepting others is to have a realistic approach towards them, recognising their strengths, weaknesses and limitations. Then we don't 'demand' that they should be different in order for us to accept them, but we accept them as they are.
Acceptance by others is something that we all desire. When we become mature we know how not to be obsessed about this, but to be practical and realistic about it.
3. How can we be accepted by God?
We can never get acceptance from God by being good enough. God is so holy and without sin, and His standards are so high that we can never qualify for His acceptance that way, no matter how much or how long we try. Also, we can never make up for the sins we have done so far by doing enough good deeds, doing penance or punishing ourselves, going through religious rituals, undertaking pilgrimages, etc.
The only way we can be accepted by God is if God would choose to accept us the way we are. The good news is that He has chosen to do this very thing. He does not tell us to go and do certain things first, or change certain ways of behaviour, and then to come to Him. He will accept us if we go to Him acknowledging what we really are.
We have all sinned, and so we are all far below God's standard of character (Ro.3:23). But God loves each one of us so much that He sent Jesus, His Son, to take our place and die for our sins. God says, "Only acknowledge your sins" (Je.3:13). If we confess our sins, He will forgive us our sins, because Jesus has already suffered our punishment in our place (1Jn.1:9). Even if our sins are gross and dreadful, God will "wash us with the blood of Jesus" and make our hearts white like snow, just as if we had never sinned! (Is.1:18).
This is how we receive acceptance from God as a gift by His grace, through our faith in Jesus.
4. Yes, I believe God has forgiven my sins and accepted me. But I feel that my life after that has been a disappointment to Him. How can He accept me now?
God's acceptance is not just for one time. It is not that He accepts us at one time as a gift of grace, and afterwards looks for our good performance to continue to accept us! He accepted us just as we were, and He accepts us now just as we are. Of course He is working in us to change us and make us like His Son Jesus (Php.2:13). But our failures or backsliding do not stop His love towards us. We lose out on the intimacy of fellowship with Him when we sin, and we need to confess our sins and be restored. But He continues to love us, even if there are tears in His eyes. He has accepted us with such a relationship that He promises never to leave or forsake us (He.13:5). It is this fact that gives us security.
5. I have been such a failure in my life that I can never accept myself.
It is only natural that we feel this way when we look at our failures. But if we continue in this way of thinking it will only lead to despair, more failure, and maybe ultimately suicide. The first thing to do is to go to God and receive His acceptance. Then think if God has accepted us, of how much value we are to Him! He considers us as the apple of His eyes, and has written our names on the palm of His hands (Zec.2:8;Is.49:16). His plans for us are for our welfare and not for any evil (Je.29:11). He can change the worst type of people and make us new (1Co.6:9-11). If He loved us when we were His enemies (that is, before we came to Him at first), will He not love us much more after we have become His children? (Ro.5:10,11).
When we are secure in the love of God, it is easier for us to come to terms with our limitations and weaknesses in a mature way and accept ourselves as we are. It is not that we treat our weaknesses lightly, but we recognise them as a part of reality and seek God's grace for transformation.
6. How can we accept some people who are so hostile to us, who have taken advantage of us or harmed us seriously in the past?
The first thing we need to do is to forgive them from our heart. If we understand that God has forgiven us in spite of all the sins we have committed and that His acceptance of us is purely out of His mercy and not at all because we were good enough, it should not be too difficult for us to forgive others. If you still find it difficult why don't you read about some others who learned how to forgive? Why forgive?
After we have forgiven the others, the second thing to do is to accept them as they are. Don't wait for them to change. Recognise their faults, learn to be merciful in our attitude towards them (perhaps they are going through some struggles we are not aware of), pray for them (Mt.5:44). Be realistic in our dealings with them.
7. I have tried and tried, but I think nobody likes me.
Well, it's really not true that nobody likes you, even if you feel like that sometimes. If you think for a while you can remember many good things people have done for you because they loved you. Perhaps you have drawn away from people because you got disappointed with someone.
But the first thing to do is to remember that God loves you. He has power to change you and your surroundings. Go to Him and get yourself right with Him.
Once God is on your side, you have got everything going for you! What does it matter if some people don't understand you if God understands you inside out and loves you as His child? Let God change your attitude and way of thinking. Then you will see that there will be changes in your relationships with others too.
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