I picked up a new book recently entitled The Recovery-Minded Church and have been reading it. The book offers good reminders of the characteristics and attributes a church should have to be welcoming and nurturing to those recovering from addiction. One quote that stuck out to me was this:
“The whole meaning of the gospel might be summed up in one simple but powerful declaration: ‘You are accepted.’”
The authors recount how addicts struggle with the feelings of shame and guilt. They often wonder if they are truly worthy of being loved. This often causes recovering addicts to stay away from churches because within a church, the feelings of shame are too strong. They remember their past mistakes and embarrassments; they feel that they do not measure up to the “perfect” lives around them. Often churches make it worse with a judgmental attitude. But the authors point out, a church can present a powerful gospel witness by offering acceptance and love to an addict who desperately is searching for it.
Yet, the addict’s emotions are really based on a mirage. The truth is that all of us struggle with the disease of sin. While we look good on the outside, all of us have our own issues – some of us might just be a little better at hiding them. Each one of us struggle with feelings of inadequacy, anxiousness, and shame as we rehearse the sins and embarrassments in our lives. We come to Southside seeking to fill a longing; to be loved and accepted.
The message of the gospel, as summed up in the Prodigal Son story in Luke 15, is that we serve a God who sees us coming from the pig pens of life and runs to meet us with “big bear hugs” and “a wide eyed grin.” The worship assembly can be the place where we feel that kind of grace, love, and acceptance.
Each of us has the power to offer the love of God to others in one simple way: communicate to them “you are accepted.” This can be done by a hug when you greet them, an invitation to share a meal, a special word of encouragement, an offer to sit with you at your pew, or a willingness to listen to someone as they tell their story.
We need to hear this message. God does love us. God does accept us. As the body of Christ, we can be His arms and His face to another. Will you be the one who this week offers this powerful message, “You are accepted”?