Integrity. This is about you. Consistency. Deliberate. One night this past week it had been a long day. I heard/interacted with seven people about stressful situations in their life (I know this because I keep a simple record at the end of each day.) I was tired. I had told one person I would talk to somebody else about a particular need. When I first called late afternoon the person was not home, I was told he’d be home after 6:00. 7:00 came around, Sally and I wanted to watch a TV program. There is only one reason that motivated me to make that phone call when I was so tempted to put it off: I said I would. So I did. I try to do what I say because I try to be a person of integrity… I am sure I fail all the time, but I try…it’s up to others to determine if I act with integrity toward them. Whenever I describe our church, I NEVER say we are a friendly church. You know why? I think we are for me. But it is a judgment for everyone who walks in these doors…. My integrity is up to others to determine for themselves. I do my best, but for me to accept another means they need to see in me that I am who I say I am. The worst is to have fake love for another.
Purpose. When you accept others, that does not mean you are rubber stamping everything they do. I strongly believe that ALL people need the Lord Jesus Christ and to accept him as Savior. ALL people need a community of faith. ALL people need to give their life over to God. I will not waiver.
Respect. Integrity. Purpose. These three ingredients are a bit intertwined in Romans 15:14-22.
RESPECT. READ Rom. 15:14. That’s respect. You know what is so amazing about this statement. Paul has just spent the first 14 chapters showing the Church in Rome that they are NOT fully accepting each other as they should. They need to open up their circle of who is acceptable into leadership. Paul is respectful of the Romans without necessarily agreeing with them in every detail of their actions.
In order to fully accept other people that means you have to respect them. That does not mean agreeing with everything they do. I know a ton of people that I am convinced belong in this church community, but I respect their decision to not be here. We need a building 3 times this size for everyone to be here that belongs here. /// and I am not talking about people who already have a church family. We are blessed with so many good churches! ////
Respect is a basic need. A boss didn’t get proper respect from his employees. One day he brought in a little sign and taped it to his office door “I’m the Boss”. The next day a handwritten note appeared on the sign: “Your wife called, she wants her sign back.”/////
Respect is to see good in others, “you yourselves are full of goodness.” In order to fully accept people you need to value them. I value my non-Christian friends. If you can’t find good in people, you don’t value them, you will be condescending, you will come across as arrogant. I try to learn from all people in my life. Paul uses the words complete, competent. These are words of affirmation and trust. My mentor as a young pastor-wanna-be in the early 80’s was Pastor George Teshera. Do you know what it means to a young man to be trusted to serve in a church? Pastor George accepted young inexperienced me… Do that for others.
Value people, affirm them, see good in them… RESPECT. If you don’t respect… years ago when I live in Seattle a street preacher was suddenly in my face: “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior.” I was a young college student, and I stammered out a “Yes,” but really wanting her to get out of my face. She showed me no respect. She did not listen to my answer. And kept preaching, “You are a sinner and you need to repent of your sins…” I walked away feeling violated.
When you respect others, they will feel like a somebody ~ not violated. There is something good about all people! Complete. Competent. Respect doesn’t mean complete agreement, it means you recognize we are all free to make decisions, and I will do my best to accept your decisions and the boundaries you set up around yourself.
And when you show respect to me, I am not so foolish to think that that means you endorse every last decision I make.
INTEGRITY. Paul explains why he does what he does, desire to be consistent READ Rom. 15:15-22. In order for you to feel accepted by me, you need to trust me as a person of integrity. That means I know my purpose, I do what I say I will do… I have found that many non-Christian people like to have Christians of integrity around. We don’t have to be perfect. The bumper sticker, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” is not really what non-Christans care about. They just want a certain level of consistency. They want honesty. The non-Christian world is often disappointed when Christians fall and it turns out they’ve been living a lie. Here is a modern parable of integrity:
A successful businessman was nearing retirement and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. He called all the young executives in his company together: "It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. I am giving each one of you a SEED. I want you to plant the seed, nurture it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."
Jim received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him plant the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After three weeks, other were talking about their lush plants. Jim kept checking his seed, but no sprout. After six months, still nothing.
The year went by and all the young executives brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife he wasn't going to take an empty pot. He’d skip the meeting. But she asked him to be honest about what happened and go anyway. Jim felt embarrassed, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the beauty and variety of plants grown by the others. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed!
When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room. Jim tried to hide. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the CEO. "Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!" Then the CEO spotted Jim with his empty pot. He ordered him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!"
When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what happened - Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, "Behold, your next Chief Executive Officer! "How could he be the new CEO?" the others said.
The CEO said, "One year ago I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, nurture it, and bring it back to me today. I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead - it was not possible for to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. All but Jim substituted another seed for the one I gave you. He is the one who will be the new Chief Executive Officer!"
The world needs men and women of integrity. Perfection is not required. Just basic integrity, consistency, dependability, pure motives not manipulation, a level of sacrificial living, to care for more than just yourself. There is a lot of conditional acceptance, as long as I conform to the wishes of the one who says they want me in their fold…. I must be a person of integrity if others are going to respond to my declaration of acceptance… “I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” Paul declares. He has been consistent…
A couple years ago I took a person with me to visit a household that was rough place. The language was coarse. I was a bit surprised when my friend sprinkled swear words into the conversation. Later he explained that he did that on purpose to get an in with them… Tell me I’m wrong, but to me, you need to be yourself, you don’t compromise whatever it is, because to me, that smacks of manipulation. I try to be myself, to be consistent. Paul goes out of his way to show the Romans that he has done his best to be consistent. They may not have always understood why he did not show up, but he was fulfilling his calling.
PURPOSE… READ Rom. 15:17, 20-22. Paul’s purpose is clear ~ to preach Jesus Christ, to share the good news of Christ with those who have not accepted him. If you don’t have a greater purpose in your life, a greater calling, then respecting others is reduced to an anything goes mentality: what’s good for you is good for you and what’s good for me is good for me. There are no standards, if you have no higher purpose.
There is only one greater purpose that will transform lives and transform the world: Jesus Christ died for your sins, he loves you, and wants to restore you to life. “I glory in Christ Jesus,” Paul thunders. May that be the conviction of your heart, your purpose ~ glory in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is not optional, he is the way, the truth and the life. I can respect those who fall short of fully embracing Christ, but that does not mean I do not want better for them. I tell people that exact thing all the time in Sumas on the streets, in the public square, in the homes and apartments.
I love watching my daughter throw on the potters wheel. She starts with a lump of clay, centering it just right… slowly she gives it shape, as the clay goes in, out, a basic shape takes shape as she spins the wheel. She has something in mind to create, a purpose, a bowl, a vase perhaps. I see the size emerging of the creation, then she will hollow it out, get the walls just right, in one stroke of her fingers she can go from a vase that is sweeping in to a vase sweeping out. Esther knows what she wants for the final creation.
As you accept others, have a vision for them of embracing Christ, to be able to stick with it as you see them starting over like the lump of clay, not giving up but seeing Christ continue to shape, to mold, to perfect. I shudder to think where I would be if I did not have parents that did not believe in me, a family, a wife that had a high vision for me, a Church family. To have a greater purpose for others to grow in Christ, to receive Christ, is the most loving thing you can do for them.
How to fully accept others. Give a RIP: Respect. Integrity. Purpose.
Respect. Are you ever secretly glad if a certain person leaves the church or decides not to get involved because they are so different…. That is not respect. It’s easy to respect people that are like you, but what about the hard people? Is that any area you need to work on? Accept others as they are…
Integrity. Do you do what you say you will do? Are you consistent? Do you find yourself telling people what you think they want to hear, but in your heart you know it is an act. Maybe personal integrity is your area of need.
Purpose. Do you think faith in Christ as your personal decision, but if others reject Christ that’s fine? Or do you honestly believe everyone needs the Lord? It will make a difference to your prayer life/behavior. Maybe it is your spouse, maybe it is your children, maybe it is the person you sorta kinda know in the community. Can you say with Paul, “it has always been my ambition for others to [know] Christ.”
Give a RIP. Respect. Integrity. Purpose. The world will be changed as we accept one another by respecting them as they are, acting with personal integrity, and envisioning a greater purpose of knowing Jesus Christ. Amen.