By DAN HALL
Accept, or except one another:
Homophones, antonyms and race relations
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. – Romans 15:7
I’m an English major. I also like to fancy myself an amateur wordsmith. Add to that my quadriplegia (absolutely no functional use of my arms or legs), and I have interesting encounters with the dictation software I use to write articles like this.
As I was dictating the title, my Dragon program kept typing “except” rather than “accept,” an example of a homophone (different words that sound alike) and an antonym (words with opposing meanings).
The irony struck me: I wanted to write an article about how we need to embrace and receive one another, and Dragon wanted to write an article about how to exclude one another.
I can never remember consciously “excepting” someone simply because of the color of their skin, but I have struggled with many aspects of those cultures that felt foreign to me.
My first real encounter of this cultural difference was when I attended my first black funeral. It was so “strange.” I don’t mean strange like wrong — I just had no reference point for what I experienced. I was surprised at how long it lasted, how many people spoke, how emotional everybody was.
That was all foreign to my very white funeral history: a structured environment, file in, 30-minute service, relatively reverent, both humorous and touching stories, a solemn song, file out.
I’ve learned that to “accept” my brother, I cannot “except” his culture.
Melvin Anderson was director of Voice of Calvary Ministries when he and I became friends. We began working together through Mission Mississippi, and over our first year together, quickly went deep in our conversations and consequently our love.
We were in the middle of preparing for the first Mission Mississippi rally at Veterans Stadium in 1993 when a group of three or four black men approached us on the field. Immediately Melvin began to talk to them in a dialect I had not heard him use. Honestly, I couldn’t understand everything being said. He later defined it as his “hood” dialect.
At one point he reached his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close and telling his friends, “I want you to meet my friend Dan. Dan, these are my homeboys.” I don’t know why I was at a loss for words, but I just nodded.
I realized in that moment that there were parts of Melvin I didn’t know because I had never taken time to know them. And yet, he completely accepted me as I was, without apology or explanation. He was unashamed to introduce me to his world while knowing that it was probably foreign to me.
When I think about what it means to accept one another, I can’t help but use that moment as a model for what true, biblical acceptance looks like: “Here’s my friend, just like he is.” And to me, “Here’s my world, just like it is.”
There is no greater honor than to be included that way.
Accepting one another in Christ is also accepting one another’s culture. Sometimes our culture is blind to its inbred sin, sure, but most of the time we “except” the person simply because of what we think is “weird.”
Take time to get to know your brothers and sisters of a different hue, a different culture, a different experience. Then embrace who they are, “in order to bring praise to God.”
Dan Hall is an executive and strategic coach to leaders and executive teams. He also works with organizations on team building, conflict resolution and communication skills. He and his wife, Hazel, have six children and four grandchildren. You can reach him at Dan@OnCourseSolutions.com.