Several years ago, there was a story in the news about a family in a small town in Florida. It consisted of a father, a mother, and two young sons. They were a normal family, except for one problem. Both boys had AIDS. They had each contracted the virus through a blood transfusion. Their presence in the public school was bitterly resisted by other parents, whose children attended that same school. One night, under suspicious circumstances, the family’s house burned to the ground. Finally, they were forced to move to another town. They had been rejected by their own community.
Some people are rejected because of their race. Some because of their religion. Some because they are poor. Others because of their age. The reasons are many, but the result is the same. It always hurts. To offer yourself to another person and have your offer refused is humiliating. To try to join a group and be denied admission is devastating. To come upon a sign that says “Keep Out”, and know that message is meant for you, is one of life’s most painful experiences.
How badly it hurts can be seen in how earnestly we seek to avoid it. We practice personal hygiene. We observe certain standards of conduct. We try to say the right things. Most of us will do almost anything within reason to render ourselves acceptable to those people whose opinions we value. But despite our best efforts, rejection remains a part of our lives.
So what does our Christian faith have to say about this terribly difficult experience? It tells us about God, by whom we are always accepted. His love for us and commitment to us are unconditional and unchanging. St. Paul told the Corinthians: “There is no limit to love’s forbearance. Its power to endure is unending.” Think of that – a love that is unchangeable. It can endure anything forever and keep right on loving. If there is that kind of love anywhere in the universe, it must originate in the heart of God.
Some of us seem to think the goal of our lives as Christians is to be accepted by God. But that is a total misconception. God’s acceptance is not the goal of our faith. It is the starting place. We do not have to earn it or achieve it in any way. It is a given, bestowed upon us even before we were born. The prophet Jeremiah heard the Lord say, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” He is saying the same to you and me. We come into this world enveloped in the love of God. That love has never left us and never will.
His love for us is never in question. We may wonder about it, but He never does. I wish it were possible for everyone of us to believe that. It may not seem very significant to you as you read this. But the next time we experience some painful rejection, it could make a major difference just to know we are always accepted by God. We will never stop needing people. But the unfailing love of God is a solid rock on which we can stand when other relationships collapse.