Many years ago, when preaching on a mission team, I was invited by an elderly lady to come and meet her family. When I arrived at the house the door was opened by Danny, who had Down’s syndrome. He took me into the front room where there were three other people. One was a man with motor neurone disease. One was a woman who had been raped and whose experience had left her barely able to do more than rock in the chair she sat in. The last was a woman unable to speak because of a stroke.
I presumed I had arrived in the wrong place until the woman I had met at the church came into the room. She smiled at me and introduced her family. These people had been living together for 20 years, and the care and compassion that bound them into one made them more of a family than many others I have met. In a very real sense these people had been God with skin on for each other. I stayed with them for some time and was incredibly moved by their love for one another and their acceptance of one another.
It made me realise yet again that when we learn to accept one another, it is probably the greatest sign of God’s presence in the world. We are called to be loving, forgiving peace-makers and yet so often our families and communities are anything but a sign of the living presence of God. Families and communities can be torn apart by the lack of acceptance of one another. Often we are too much into controlling and manipulating others to accept and love them as they are.
If we are to be an example to those around us of the reality of God – just as that family in the north-east were an example to me – we have to learn the lesson of acceptance. That usually entails forgiveness and giving one another the benefit of the doubt. It always involves a prayer that the Spirit will fill us with the power to move beyond ourselves so that we might be able to see with the eyes of Christ. It always helps to have a good dash of humour thrown in. That goes a long way to helping the mix!