Belonging is important. We all want to belong, to be a part, to be accepted by someone or some group. The groups we belong to define us. We take on their beliefs, their ethics, their mannerisms, and their way of speaking; often without even thinking about it. But groups tend to have boundaries that define who is “in” and who is not a part of the group. Does this remind anyone of Junior High or Middle School and the angst of who was in and who was out? How many of us have felt the stinging rebuke of rejection because we failed to conform? Or the worse rejection caused by things, not of our own choosing? Some have even concluded that God will never accept them.
There’s a verse in Isaiah that reads, “Don’t let foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will never let me be part of his people.’ And don’t let the eunuchs say, ‘I’m a dried-up tree with no children and no future.’” (Isaiah 56:3, NLT) Foreigners and eunuchs were “out” when it came to participating in temple worship. Remember the riot when it was thought that the Apostle Paul had taken one of his non-Jewish friends into the temple courtyard? ( Acts 21:26-32) In the Isaiah passage, God goes on to promise acceptance to the foreigner and heritage to the childless. (Isaiah 56:4-8) There are conditions of course, “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant.” (Isaiah 56:6, NLT) But notice what is missing from the list, God doesn’t care about who our father is, what country we’re from, how rich we are, how long our hair is, our political inclinations, or any of a number of others things that we use to divide ourselves. But God does care that we serve Him, love Him, worship Him, and continue to grow in obedience to what He has said.
Most of you don’t have problems feeling accepted by God but there are those, some of which I hope are reading this article, who feel God could not possibly want them because of their past, their failures, or their shame. They feel outcast, rejected, and unwanted. To those folks I say this, Jesus will never reject you because of your past, your failures, or the things that you are ashamed of. You are acceptable to Him because He loves you. Jesus loves you where you are and desires to lead you to a better place. In Isaiah, God went on to promise the foreigners, “I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7, NLT) Jesus will lead you home, to God’s place. He will fill you with joy. Not just someday in heaven, but today through prayer and worship you can join the uncountable before God’s throne. You will not be turned away if you turn towards Jesus. You are acceptable to Him who loves you more than you can imagine.