Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finding Acceptance in Community

One of the classic pop-psychology books that were popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s was John Joseph Powell’s book titled “Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?” Appealing primarily to adolescents, the book focused on the fear of being rejected if we reveal too much of who we really are to others. By identifying this fear as a universal experience and by showing some of the roles we play in protecting our fragile egos, Powell encouraged transparency in relationships. He saw in such transparency the potential for finding mutual acceptance among those who experience the same kind of fears.

While love is the emotion we deeply need (see yesterday’s post), acceptance is the communal experience that demonstrates that others value us. Finding a community where people accept us for who we truly are is a vital need. Being part of a community and feeling secure and at-ease in that community are integral aspects of the full and abundant life.

Row 4 on the “Making Disciples” chart addresses this need for acceptance. Finding your place in a community where you are valued, accepted, affirmed, and loved is an essential step toward Christlikeness. Jesus modeled this kind of community with his disciples. In many ways, Jesus’ attention to drawing tax collectors and notorious sinners into his circle epitomizes the expanse of this need for acceptance. By his example, Jesus in essence said, “If agape-love can reach the dregs of society and draw them into a community of love and acceptance, how much more hope you have for finding that kind of community for yourself.”

Identity, love, and acceptance emerge primarily through experience. They are hard issues to work out on your own. Interactions with parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, bosses, and so many others who touch our lives exert strong influences on our journeys toward discovering who we are, developing a sense of our worth and value, and binding our lives and our spirits in a community that embraces us and challenges us to be all that we are capable of being. In our task of making disciples, we must address these foundational issues by the community we are, by the experiences into which we draw each member of that community, and by the power of that community to draw others into its loving embrace.

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