God's Radical Acceptance

I have recently been asked my opinion whether the coronavirus is God's judgment on the world. And from what the Bible reveals about God's plans for this age or time, No, I do not.

No doubt, God has judged in the past, and our Lord Jesus Christ shall judge in the future (Acts 10:42). Yet our Lord Himself said this is the time to "preach the good news," and to "offer God's salvation," and to "proclaim the year of God's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).

Speaking of this age, the apostle Paul said, "Behold, now is the Day of Salvation!" (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Clearly, now is not the time for God to bring forth judgment but to use His church to offer salvation.

Some might say, "But what about the pestilence in the book of Revelation?"

Well, as Christians who take the Book of Revelation seriously, frankly, what we see today doesn't even come close to that which is prescribed for the future in the Book of Revelation.

Indeed, this coronavirus, tragic as it is for far too may people, is less deadly (numerically speaking) than so many other global viruses which did not usher in the apocalypse. A mind-blowing number of 50 million+ died from the Black Plague. A heart staggering 25 million+ died from the Spanish Flu.

I have also heard talk that God is an unloving God. Some believe the Bible tells the story of a spiteful, reject-full God rejecting man.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Starting with the opening chapters in Genesis (the first book in the bible) to the final words in Revelation (the final book), the Bible tells the story of a loving God who constantly reaches out to mankind with incredible grace and mercy and provision and blessing, faces constant rejection.

In just three chapters, and only took two bites into an apple, something so vital and alive in the first couple suddenly died in them. Their childlike faith with which they trusted God was gone! In it's place, the feared God, felt guilty, ashamed, and afraid.

Fearing God's rejection, they rejected God. And hid from Him in shame.

I think this is what happens with a lot of us, today.

People inherently know they're not living perfect lives. We somehow feel or even know that we are made for so much more than this. We feel like heroes inside, perfect mothers, star athletes, successful entrepreneurs, but we don't reach it. Or we don't stay on top for long.

So to be able to live what that incompleleteness, fear of failure, to overcome our sense of not measuring up, we normalize the way we are. This is very human. We find others like us and say we're all fine. Everyone else is wrong. And we criticize anyone who threatens our fragile way of coping.

Because really, we fear rejection. That's like the worst feeling one can feel.

And we can kind of control this with people, hide things, pretend we're smarter or younger or richer than we are.

But we cannot do this successfully with God.

So, sensing our guilt and fearing God's judgment, God's rejection, we beat Him to the punch. We judge God—deny, ignore, or reject Him before He can reject us.

But the Lord is not a rejecting God!

He did not reject Adam and Eve, He pursued them. “Where are you?! Why are you hiding?” Afterward, He sacrificed for them. Our Lord mercifully covered their sin and clothed their shame.

This is the consistent narrative of the entire Bible from Adam to Abraham to the arrival of Jesus Christ.

Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save sinners (John 3:17). He didn't come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45). He came to give us eternal life (John 3:16).

Many of Jesus’ teachings, even His parables spoke about God’s radical acceptance, yet also pointed out and warned against man's familiar pattern of rejecting of God.

1) Jesus told the parable of a King that threw a party for His Son but most of the people made every excuse not to come; they rejected God and His Son. (Luke 14)

2) He told another parable of landowner who planted a vineyard but the workers refused to give Him His share of the harvest. So he sent his slaves (prophets) to collect it, but they were beaten, rejected. Finally, He sent His Son for it, for certainly they would respect him and give him their dues. Yet when the son came, they beat and even killed Him. (Matthew 21)

Jesus' parables highlight not God's rejection, but man's. They ultimately forecast man's nailing Jesus to a cross where God Himself was rejected by the state, by the religious leaders, and even by His own friends and family.

Yet these parables make it clear that God wonderfully and radically accepts all who receive Him!

After the guests refused to come to the party which the King held freely and generously for His son's honor, He told His servants to go out and invite the poor, and welcome the cripple, the blind, the lame, and frankly, whoever wishes to come, let them come (Luke 14:21ff; see Revelation 22:17)

Don't think of God as a reject-full God rejecting man. That's simply not the case. In fact, He's just the opposite.

Jesus rendered the unclean, clean; i.e., he made the unacceptable acceptable.

Jesus was sent by the Father to those who feared God’s rejection most, and He shared the good news of God's acceptance, and assured all that trusted Him, your sins are forgiven; i.e., God accepts you.

That's what it means to be forgiven in Christ. It means God holds nothing against you and fully accepts you. Delights in you. Cherishes you. As you are. In Christ.

Jesus communicated God’s love and acceptance to a woman caught in the act of adultery; to Zacchaeus, a man who acted despicably and whom everyone else despised.

With each of these and many others, Jesus assured them of God’s acceptance despite their indiscretions!

The life, the teaching and actions of Jesus confirm the Bible's narrative not of a reject-full God rejecting man—but of a loving and merciful and good God blindly and foolishly rejected by man.

This all came to a culmination when the people hammered God to a cross.

Yet man's rejection is not the final Word.

God's love has no limits. As man judged Jesus for His sins, since He was sin-free, God judged Him for our sins.

Yet on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead to give life to all who believe. This was God's plan for accepting us.

Whatever you've been told. Whatever you've believed. Whatever you feel… God is a good and merciful and loving God who accepts all who come to Him through Jesus Christ His Son.

This is why the Father sent Jesus to us,

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

If you have never felt acceptable to God. Loved by Him. That's an awful place to be. I'd hesitate too.

Hear this message, read it for yourself. God loves you and sent Jesus to forgive you and make you radically acceptable. Trust Jesus for this, today. Accept God's radical acceptance that Jesus offers.

This is something we value so much as a church. Yet we still have to unlearn some of the BS we'd been taught, and our hearts are still learning to choose to rest in this truth of God’s unconditional love toward us in Christ.

We call this, God's grace. God's one-way love.

It's dependent on His loving heart, not your performance or goodness or behavior.

So, if you’ve rejected the God of the Bible, maybe because you think of God as unapproachable, unaccepting, and you fear God’s rejection—God the Father sent Jesus for you to have eternal life.

And if you trust Jesus, if you have already embraced God's acceptance and have known His love and walk with His Spirit, but you also know that you fail in godliness and that you still fall short of being the person you wish to be, God's not mad at you! He’s not a three-strikes-and-you're-out type of God.

He is full of grace and love; He relates as a loving Father; the friend of sinners; not just until we trust Jesus, but forever after…

So here are a few simple reminders of God's love and acceptance. Let these truths that God spoke long ago speak to your heart,

Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Not because we're all so good now, but because of Jesus.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God…

This is the opposite of rejection! So is this,

2 Corinthians 5:19 But God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

As a church, let's experience God's favor by pressing into Jesus who freely supplies it. Let's show God’s one-way love by experiencing it ourselves.

Let's take advantage of the precious opportunities we have to share the good news of God's acceptance with those who wrongly believe God isn't good or loving, and who mistakenly feel they could never please Him. It's horrible to feel unloved and unaccepted.