Rejection. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s more than being left behind. It’s worse than just being abandoned or neglected. Rejection is all those things and more. The worst part about rejection is that it’s a decision. Someone doesn’t want you. They’ve looked at you and they don’t want you to be part of the group. It’s the toys being thrown away in Toy Story. It’s the rejects who join Glee. It’s all the people who didn’t get to the next stage of X-factor.
The opposite of rejection is acceptance. Let’s accept those who are cast out, those who are different. Let’s look past our differences and accept them into our fold. Let’s take in the broken toys, the bad singers, and the social misfits. Its a beautiful sounding dream, and has become the social policy for the new generation. In many ways, acceptance in this world is accepting someone whether they are bad or good, right or wrong; it is saying, we judge not, for all are welcome.
But there’s a problem with this. The cure for rejection is not acceptance. For someone who has been rejected, simply being part of a new group is not enough. Accepting a person’s differences doesn’t heal the pains of rejection. It doesn’t make a bad singer good, or fix a broken toy. It merely accepts them into a new group, a different establishment.
The cure for rejection is actually love. In many ways, unfortunately, we’ve confused acceptance with love. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that accepting someone different, and overlooking their flaws, is the demonstration of love. But love, true love, is more than acceptance. Love welcomes those who are broken, flawed, and misguided. But true love does not leave them like that. True love moves from acceptance to restoration. True love welcomes in and then works to heal. True love gives their own life to save the life of another. It fixes the broken, guides the lost, feeds the hungry. Love does not stop at welcoming people through the door. Love extends beyond.
This is why Christ calls his disciples to love one another. He calls them to go and bear fruit. It is why he tells them that greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
(John 15:12-17 ESV)
Jesus took a band of misfits, outcasts, failures. Those who couldn’t make it into Rabbinic school. He welcomes them in, but then works with them. He loves them not just as students or servants. But he loves them to the point where he calls them friends. Deep love. True acceptance. True Love. He does not leave them broken and wanting. Rather he gives his Holy Spirit so that they can know how to walk with him eternally. The Holy Spirit is the transforming dynamic. It works us to completion.
I wanted this world to love me. I wanted to be accepted by it. I thought if this world would love me, then I would be at peace. But the love and acceptance of this world is unfulfilling. It does not fix me. It does not complete me. This world simulates love by learning to accept others. It pretends to accept me.
But God’s love is perfect love. It doesn’t stop at acceptance. God’s love is so great, he created a way for us to be accepted, forgiven and restored. God is love. And He is perfect love. It is changing me – who is imperfect – into perfection in Him. Is there any force greater on earth? Can anything on this earth compare to that promise?
And so my prayer is:
Lord, I don’t want the acceptance of this world. Fill me instead with your perfect love.
Fix the cracks in my heart. Teach me how to sing.
Repair the broken pieces of my life. For you are the great redeemer and restorer. Your Holy Spirit guides and teaches me. Let me be reminded and refilled daily with your love, so that my arms and feet can love the people in this world.
Let me love the world around me the same way you loved me.
These were some thoughts from our current series The Remarkable Life of Jesus and our Strong and Courageous Life in Him. The message about the Holy Spirit from John 14 is available here, and all our previous messages are available on the Sunday messages page.
I’ve now also added a few questions as a short Bible study for you to reflect on this week’s message and passage. It’s available on the Sunday messages page.