Summary: We know what both acceptance and rejection feel like. What must God feel at our rejection of Him? In Jesus He turns around our rejection into His acceptance of us. We can accept our acceptance.
“He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
Do you have experience with both acceptance and rejection? I imagine you do. No one is so fortunate as to have had everything he wants, and so we have all experienced rejection. And no one is so hard-up that she has been rejected for everything, and so we have all experienced acceptance. We know what both acceptance and rejection feel like, don’t we?
What does it feel like to be accepted? You applied for admission to college, and one day the letter came. You were scared to open it for a little while. But when you did, and it said, “We are pleased to inform you that you have been admitted …”, how did you feel? You whooped for joy, not bothering to read the part about how much it was going to cost to enroll in that bastion of Ivy League bluebloodedness!
Or some of us knelt on one knee, and fumbled with a ring in the pocket. You pretty well knew that she was going to say, “Yes”, but there was always the chance that she would laugh in your face. And so when she said she would marry you, you shed tears of relief and joy! You celebrated. It felt good to be accepted!
Or you applied for a job, and, after maybe a lot of interviews and false starts, you finally got that position, the one that actually paid a salary. Were you not elated about that? Shortly after seminary, I spent a frustrating summer not getting called to any ministry position. But finally I was offered work as the Baptist Campus Minister at Berea College in eastern Kentucky. I called up my wife and told her that I had the job, and she asked, “What does it pay?” I had forgotten to ask in all the excitement. Said she, “Don’t you think you should find out?” Someone has to be the practical one! Now we had calculated, back in those halcyon days of 1963, that we needed about $4800 a year – that’s per year, not per month –to get by. And so when I made that phone call and found that I was going to be paid the princely sum of $5520, we celebrated! We screamed with delight! A job, and with more money than we had expected. Acceptance felt great!
That’s what acceptance does. But what about rejection? Anybody remember what it feels like to be rejected? The letter that said, “We regret to inform you …” and you did not have to read the rest. You knew. The date you tried to get, and when you phoned her, she said, “You’ve got to be kidding”. In my case, the occasional interview with a pulpit committee, after which I never heard a mumblin’ word. Well, if you don’t like what I have to offer, you could at least tell me why! Rejection feels horrible. Rejection feels most unwelcome.
But now let me take this acceptance and rejection theme a step further. Let me move on one more stage. What if you had been away from home, and when you returned there, they rejected you? What if your own family, your parents, your brothers and sisters, shut the door on you and told you, in no uncertain terms, that you were not welcome there. Isn’t that the ultimate rejection? Wouldn’t that feel worst of all? After all, as the poet Robert Frost put it, “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” But despite the “have to” they didn’t? How would that feel? Maybe some of you have actually had that experience. I have certainly seen it in some sadly broken families.
The Bible says that when God came home, to his own, his own people did not accept him. Our God, creator of heaven and earth, who had made us in His image and after His likeness, and called us to be His sons and His daughters, that God invested Himself in us, and was rejected. When He came to His own creation, those whom He had loved and cherished as His crowning glory said “No.” They rejected God. No, let me correct that; we reject God. Not they, but we. Not rejected, past tense, but reject, present tense. We reject God. He came unto His own, and His own people did not accept Him.
You see, the whole of human history can be written as the story of the ways we reject our Creator. We reject God and His love for us whenever we choose to live by our own desires and not by His commands. He did not give us the Ten Commandments and other moral principles just to make life difficult for us; He gave them out of love, hoping to keep us from harming ourselves. But we have decided that we know better, thank you very much, and we live our lives according to our own pleasures. That is rejecting God, and it hurts Him when we do it. Not if we do it, but when we do it.