The floor above mine at work was the land of big personalities and even bigger egos, a sound stage on which a melange of languages and nationalities coexisted warily. And when one “less than favorite” coworker transitioned out of the department, there was much buzz.
There was even more buzz when she came back after a few weeks.
One colorful character, who had often butted heads with the “returnee,” approached coworkers in genuine perplexity: ” So, how will we receive her now?”
Hearts that had contracted tightly in disapproval and resentment now had to face a so-called adversary, reluctantly back in the boxing ring called the workplace to spar with her frenemies.
I thought about that question recently when I realized that I, too, would soon have to stage my own “reception.”
What does it look like to extend grace to those considered “ungraceable”? How do we walk the fine line of being genuinely Christ-like to those who have been borderline devilish in their dealings with us and with others?
The critical care unit
I jokingly refer to myself sometimes as the critical care unit because of the many hard cases that end up at my feet: burnt, bewildered, beat-up, and backstabbed people. All in need of some spiritual TLC. Prayer. A listening ear. Perhaps more.
Sometimes my flesh cries out: “Why, Lord, why?” He replies: “Think of these as a few second chances that you get to bring into being for me…. like the millions of second chances I’ve given you.” To which I confess: Yes, Lord; you’re right!
There’s no app for this
In the lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, nowhere is there mention of receiving as a gift. Giving, yes; receiving, no. Perhaps receiving is the mirror image of giving? I think the Holy Spirit enables us to receive others–their prickliness, their warts, their splotchy resumes–as a form of worship.
Yes, I did say worship. We may end up raising our hands, not in praise but in exasperation. We may kneel, not so much in submission to God but from the pain of daggers of unkindness thrust into our hearts in response to our kindness. Receiving bites sometimes.
Let’s treat receiving others “as is” as an act of worship. Our open arms give the prodigal, the pariah, the outcast, and the refugee from spiritual Egypt a chance to receive from God via our fumbling, sometimes half-hearted willingness to serve.
Truth is, we’re merely being a mirror image of what the Father does for us each day when He receives us in all our icky nonsplendor and plunges us anew in the fountain that brings wholeness, healing, and yet another chance. We’re just here to do like Daddy does.
The gift of receiving
If we’re honest, some days we give zero foxes about tending the wounds of others when we’re over here hemorrhaging all by our lonesome. But God, being rich in mercy, asks us to be his spiritual surgeons, suturing others on the operating table of life. And as we obediently receive, He provides the strength and healing that may never come if we remain in “What about me?” mode, navel gazing.
So, see Romans 15:7 as a great commission to receive:
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
How will you receive them this Christmas: those who need you to gift them with compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and a soft heart?