How will we receive them?

little girl hugs

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.

Poor reception

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?


  1. What an interesting post. As someone who honestly finds myself struggling with resentment, I needed to read this today. Thank you.-Ashley
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  2. You always make be think back to a situation I’ve completely ignored. Ignoring something doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist. Now I want to go bake a neighbor cookies – just because.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted..Here’s the Season…My Profile

  3. What a powerful and thought provoking post.
    In the Jewish culture, there’s an act of giving back called, “Tikun Olam” which translates to “Healing the World”. I’ve always loved this phrase/meaning and yes, in difficult situations (especially in difficult situations), it’s not always easy to extend gratitude, grace, kindness, etc., but we are called to do so. On my blog, I’ve asked my friends to do something that’s simple and easy to give back this season. (I love how so many of us in the world of blogging seems to be “in sync” without even trying. I’m always amazed by this…)
    Dina recently posted..Wisdom and TruthMy Profile

    • I think it’s God’s way of getting us on the same page, Dina: His page. When I see a number of people on the same general trend, I know God is up to something. Going over now to check out what you’re encouraging us to do at Causerie.
      Alison recently posted..How will we receive them?My Profile

  4. I always think of Rick Warren’s definition of worship from The Purpose Driven Life. He says worship is anything that brings pleasure to God….anything that pleases Him. When we receive those who, some may not deem worthy… or like your said, reflect our heavenly father, it IS worship. Great post Alison.
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    • Rick’s definition is spot on, Hope. Christians often limit worship to Sunday morning in church when, in reality, it’s a 24-7 activity. We can bring God pleasure by simply being present for someone who needs a listening ear. We are serving Him in that simple act of listening.
      Alison recently posted..How will we receive them?My Profile

  5. It’s so funny that I’m reading this post right now. I’ve found that the most difficult ones to deal with who are like this for me are unbelieving family members. It’s usually not the other saints or the unbelievers that are not in my family that pose a challenge for me. Even if I’m not the one that ends up listening to them talk about their issues or what’s bothering them, I find it difficult to hold lengthy conversations because my words are often repeated or misconstrued. It’s times like this that I wish I had my husband’s ability to “deaf ear” (as he calls it) these flaws about them. I know with time, I will be able to. I’ve already made some great changes in how I deal with them. All in love, and more focused on making sure that I fulfill my commitment to them in our interactions that God commands me to in His word.
    Brittnei recently posted..Crazy 8 Sale! Kids Clothing $12.99 and UnderMy Profile

    • Love the hub’s approach to “deaf ear” the flaws. That’s his way of receiving them without being destroyed by them. It’s a balancing act sometimes, Brittnei. Some folks will lash out no matter how innocent your words are. It takes a heaping amount of patience and forgiveness to deal with them. Yet, in the process, we grow. Satan knows how to pit our very own against us. Grace, grace, and more grace to you, Brittnei!
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  6. Ms Alison, that is such a rich and meaty read my friend. You help us to see worship beyond just song of praise.
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  7. This is a big thinker for me. I can be very resentful and angry when someone wrongs me, or is rude to me, and my tendency is to fight back or run away. I imagine that with a softer heart, I would do neither of those two things.
    Thank you.
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  8. I am thinking as well Alison! Like Tamara, I have some issues….pray for me that I receive with an open mind and heart!
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  9. Hi Alison! Love that wording about ‘navel-gazing’. Very descriptive!
    It’s a lot easier to be nice to ourselves, than to be nice to others. Jesus was so good to all, and I know I need to keep cultivating that quality. I should be open to all my sisters and brothers in Christ. Doesn’t mean I have to love what they do, but love them because we are in the same family. And seeing that as worship is such a great idea. The only right idea, really.

    Good to be here!
    Ceil recently posted..Christmas MusicMy Profile

    • It’s always good to have you here, Ceil! That openness to all was Jesus’s hallmark. It should be ours, too. I know I fall so very short. I have to constantly be bringing my shortcomings to Him and asking for a clean, fresh heart and start. We are works in progress, Ceil!
      Alison recently posted..How will we receive them?My Profile

  10. Sometimes I think adults are worst than children. People need to grow up already. We go to work to earn a living, not make friends. If you make a friend along the way, great but in the meantime I like to keep it professional and not get too personal….of course it doesn’t’ always work out like that but it’s best to keep your business to yourself. That way, ppl have nothing to talk about
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  11. I never get personal at work when I was working I kept work at work and home at home I think that has saved me from a lot of mess. I don’t let people get into the core of me so I don’t normally have to worry about forgiving or opening up my heart. It’s lonely but I don’t have to resent anyone and I have a very peaceful life.
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  12. It can be wise to keep the two separate, but there are great friendships to be found at work. Some people are terrors, but others are definitely worth the investment of time and attention.
    Alison recently posted..How will we receive them?My Profile

  13. Go right ahead Missy!!! Well, can’t blame you. I was lying in bed pondering a future encounter thinking about the many ways I could avoid it, including pretending to be out of town, phone trouble, illness, sudden emergencies etc. So I am lying there when the Holy Spirit says get up, clear the table and get on the computer, after all you can’t sleep. I saw this post last week but did not open it, guess God knew I would need to today, and yes you walked all over my desire to say “hell no, I ain’t having none of this crap, keep your corner I’ll keep mine.”
    I really do love people but there a few in my live who make me want to spit, the more I do the right thing the more salt is added into my wounds. After reading this post, I know I need to ask the Holy Spirit for a plan of action, you threw my “hell no” plan right out the window. Lord Help me!!!

  14. LOL! I can depend on you to keep it 100. Yeah, some folk really make you want to spit. And then spit again! Grateful for the Holy Spirit, who gladly gives a plan of action when we’re about to go into spitting mode. He’s faithful to work it out for us, Fab.
    Alison recently posted..How will we receive them?My Profile

  15. this is such a hard lesson to learn! it is so hard for me to forgive; it may be one of my worst traits. i must learn to be more like Jesus, as this is the season of giving. thank you for helping me practice becoming a better person.
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  16. I struggle with it too, Catherine. It’s a slow process of conforming our thoughts and attitudes to God’s standard. Let’s decide to extend the goodwill of the Christmas season to those who will get on our last nerve in the new year!
    Alison recently posted..Fruit that remainsMy Profile

  17. Love this post Ali! We’re doing a study of the Book of John and you’re on point! It’s such a powerful study, because John shows us the heart of Christ! Three things I’ve learned in this study is that (1) we can’t condemn people and reconcile them back to Christ at the same time (2) no one ever overcomes unless someone shows them love and forbearance and (3) Jesus loved us until we figured it out, so we should give everyone we come in contact with the same opportunity. Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll be taking a blogging break for the remainder of the month, so if I don’t get to your blog before Christmas…MERRY CHRISTMAS darlin’!! Muah!! 🙂
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  18. I’ll be off too, Michell, probably at the end of the month. Have a wonderful Christmas!
    Alison recently posted..Fruit that remainsMy Profile

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