Pastoral Perspectives

Affirmation! Acceptance! Appreciation!

How do we build an embracing community? When I think about embracing, I think about encouraging. “To embrace” means “to hold someone closely in one’s arms, especially as a sign of affection.” It can also mean “to accept a belief, a theory, or a change willingly and enthusiastically. In this sense, it can mean “to accept a person who may be different from yourself willingly and enthusiastically.”

What is the undergirding principle of an embracing community? To me, it would be “love”, the steadfast love of Christ. How can we begin to exercise this love of Christ in our community? I would like to address three attitudes to enhance our relationship with each other in this community. One attitude which we can adopt is: “Affirmation”.

What is “affirmation”? Affirmation is to give assurance to others for the things that they have done. Words of affirmation are really needed in this community. We want to build up each other in the faith. If someone has done it for the first time or attempt, what they need is word of affirmation. Even for a small number of services rendered, giving a word of affirmation meant a lot to that person who serves so willingly and cheerfully. If a person served as a reader in a worship service, it will be good to give him or her a word of affirmation such as “You have read it clearly and concisely. Keep up the effort!” Any word of affirmation must be sincere and truthful. Affirmation needs to be cultivated by each one of us. How we say it does give a great impact to that person who hears it and receives it. It is good to render word of affirmation to one another graciously. When someone goes to interact with a newcomer for the first time, we can give a word of affirmation to that person. This gives an emotional support or encouragement to that person who reaches out to newcomers. Another attitude which we can adopt is: “Acceptance”.

When I look at this word: “acceptance”, it reminds me of Romans 15:7 NLT which states: “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Who would like to be excluded from the community of believers in this community? No one, right? We all desire acceptance and want to be accepted. What is “acceptance”? Acceptance is to give assurance to others for who they are, remembering that they are made in the image of God. “To accept” means “to welcome” or “to include” or “to receive”. If Christ Jesus has accepted you for who you are, no matter what you have done or how you look like physically, how can we not do the same thing for others in this community? Regardless of each other’s differences, upbringings, statuses and qualifications, we should overlook them and reach out to others with a heart of acceptance. In Romans 15:1-7, the context of this Bible passage is about those who are strong bearing patiently with those who are weak. We should be living to please others and not just to please ourselves. That is what verses 1-2 state: “We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Let us not become too critical and judgemental of others but instead let us accept one another just as “Christ Jesus has accepted you”. Another attitude which we can adopt is: “Appreciation”.

What is “appreciation”? Appreciation is to give assurance to others both for the things that they have done and for who they are. Appreciation is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something. Do we think that we need to give more words of appreciation to each other in this community? To me, affirmation and acceptance would lead to appreciation. When someone know that what he has said or what he has done has been recognised, there will be this unspeakable gladness in their heart. Let us not be stingy in giving word of appreciation to each other.

I am very appreciative of those who have prayed for me and of those who have encouraged me to press on in the faith and in the service of our Lord Jesus. I am also very appreciative of those who have supported me with any kind of helps which I may need. What I have lacked, others are willing to supply. We really need one another in this community.

My encouragement for us is to pray and ask God how we can be a blessing to each other, whether with words of affirmation or words of acceptance or words of appreciation. We really need to affirm, to accept and to appreciate.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, we are instructed: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”