Remember, in this series of essays we are looking at the biblical Protocols for Christian relationships and applying them to the most intimate of all relationships, marriage. Review Romans 15:1-13 as the context for this essay. Consider also that this passage flows out of the context in which Paul discusses the issues of Christian liberty and responsibilities which accompany them.
In Romans 15:5 the Apostle inserts a brief prayer asking that God, the giver of perseverance and encouragement, would grant that his readers might have the same mind toward one another as that of Christ. (See Philippians 2:1-8 where he writes about this concept more fully.) Clearly, the purpose that Paul visions is greater than personal or even marital happiness. In verse six he writes, “That with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Out of this greater purpose flows the wonderful experience of marital bliss.
When we follow the example of Jesus, “…just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (v.7) there are at least four blessings that flow from accepting one another
Just like we do not reject the baby with a dirty diaper, we do not reject one another when the behavior of our mate is odious. When, as a child of God, we sin and offend God he bids us come in repentance to seek forgiveness. When we do not do so by our own initiative, he pursues us to bring us to repentance. Remember the gross sin of King David. For nearly nine months he had a cold heart and refused to take responsibility for his sin. Then God sent Nathan the prophet to say, “Thou art the man!” David writes of this life experience in Psalms 32, 38 and 51. One of the English poets refers to God as the “Hound of Heaven.” God give us the example of accepting the sinner while hating the sin. As I write this, three counseling cases course through my memory. In each one there was adultery. In each case the offended party did not reject the offender. He each case the offended mate sought out the offending mate and encouraged repentance. In each case the marriage was reconciled.
Acceptance gives value to your mate. It says, “You are important to me!” God demonstrated this principle in the graphic story of Hosea. And, yes, Hosea did what he did because God told him to do so. There are times when we will extend acceptance because God says so. My wife and I were building a house some years ago. We determined a budget and agreed to stick with it. But along the way she decided there was something she wanted that would push outside the budget. I said no. Then she found the item at about 50% of the original cost and came back to me with this good news. I became angry and told her in no uncertain terms, “NO!” After cooling off I came back to her in repentance and asked her forgiveness for my ugly and hurtful tone. She responded, “Yes, I will forgive you, but give me opportunity to get use to it.” She was accepting me because she knew God said she should not because she was excited about doing so.
Acceptance gives meaning to the mate and the relationship by affirming the mate’s contribution to the relationship. When I do premarital counseling I have a little speech that I give in the last session. It runs like this. “Now you are about to get naked with one another and I don’t mean your bodies, but your souls. You are going to discover warts you did not know you had and warts you cannot believe your mate has. It is important to remember that you made a covenant with God to love and to cherish so long as you both shall live.” Accepting your mate with these warts gives meaning to the covenant and the relationship. These warts can include many idiosyncratic behaviors such as speech patterns, gestures, over speaking under pressure, wet towels left on the floor, tooth paste tube squeezed in the middle, etc.
Acceptance fosters trust. It communicates, “I can be open and honest with you.” It says, “I am safe”. Marriage should be the safest relationship on earth. Acceptance of your mate helps to create such an environment. Paul closes his discussion of acceptance with this benediction: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (13). Hope here could be rendered assurance. This assurance comes from believing and practicing the principle of acceptance and this assurance (acceptance in action) is powered by the Holy Spirit. In other words, practicing these Protocols in marriage is a supernatural process. So, submit to God, be obedient—accept one another—by depending upon the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and find joy and peace.