This past Sunday I preached from I Corinthians 12 on Paul's image of the church as the Body of Christ, where every member is connected, important and defined in our separate roles by our being a part of the whole Body. During that sermon I mentioned three qualities which help us to be well-connected to Christ. I also talked about the power of being "Together in Christ" (which was the title of my sermon).
Since that sermon, I have received several very kind responses. One of the most interesting comments included this observation: "You were inviting us to be a Triple-A Rated church." I like that concept, because in my sermon I described these three qualities: Acceptance, Accountability, and Affirmation. Thus, if a congregation or any Christian group exhibits those qualities, then they might be declared a "Triple-A Rated church."
Here are some additional thoughts about those qualities. "Acceptance" is all about seeing the Spirit of God in the other person. It is not necessarily about "approval" – but the simple and profound act of Christian hospitality which welcomes every person into our community. Acceptance is what we often provide in our families where an "Uncle George" who is a difficult person is welcomed to family events anyway, just because he is part of the family.
"Accountability" is not about holding others to my personal preferences, rather it is about holding each other accountable to the life, witness and Spirit of Jesus Christ. Too often when we make our own lists of accountability, our humanity causes us to see the sins in others but not ourselves. Holding everyone (including us) up to the standard of Jesus is the proper accountability for our Christian community. Do our lives, for example, reflect the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control)?
The final quality is "Affirmation" – the ways in which we affirm one another and build one another up in faith. Too often in our churches we are quick to be critical of one another, but being connected in Christ means that we affirm one another and support one another.
So, is your church or your group Triple-A Rated? Do you practice Acceptance, Accountability, and Affirmation?
When we focus upon our connection in Christ, we move toward that highest rating of being a part of the Body of Christ.