ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED
“…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:5-6
Imagine an abandoned child – broken, despised, rugged, and probably disabled. His parents may not have wanted him anymore and have left him by the roadside to die. Or maybe he is an abused child, one treated with contempt. And then came his savior – a couple who agreed to take him in, flaws and all. They treated him like their own son, showering him with love and attention and the only way that anyone will know that this is an adopted child, is through a DNA test. He did not deserve that love and affection, but it does not matter anyway.
The act of being accepted is defined as ‘affirmed; taken responsible for; believed in; received; signed agreement; to be admitted officially’. Many people who have been through a painful childhood marred by abuse – physical, sexual, verbal and emotional will find it very difficult to understand the meaning of being accepted. To them the only way to be accepted is to subject themselves to abuse, and constantly disregarding their own needs for affection. However, this kind of love is at best – conditional. They find themselves slaves to love and affection, but always never deserving enough.
It is especially hard to believe that God is a Father and accepts us as His children. If our earthly parents who are tangible do not accept us, then how can we imagine being accepted by a ‘Father’ whom we cannot even see or feel? What makes things worse is when an earthly person claims to be a father, but does things that no true fathers will do. Some fathers are dominant and manipulative through physical and sexual violence; others are verbally abusive or emotionally distant. Fathers are supposed to protect, provide, and guide. Many grow up scarred, battered and wounded because not only did their fathers fail to perform what God has designated for all fathers; but they were instead taken advantage of. Fathers are supposed to be one of the closest people to the child, and this kind of betrayal and malice can have a permanent effect on any person.
Every leader that God has put above us, including spiritual leaders have the same impact on our lives as biological fathers do. The only difference is that they provide, protect, love, nurture and guide us emotionally and spiritually. They are the people whom we look up to, and people whose acceptance and favor we yearn for.
It is hard for Joseph to be rejected by his brothers, but it may be even more painful for David to be rejected by someone he calls a father, King Saul 1 Samuel 16-31). Imagine David’s excitement when he saw Saul’s favor upon him, thinking that he will be the next king. David must have been so excited that he is willing to do anything to please Saul, only to find himself being hunted down by Saul – all because of jealousy. For many years, David had to run away from the person whom he had trusted to nurture him. Despite Saul’s fierce advances in wanting to kill David, he had settled in his heart that he will not kill Saul even though he had the opportunity (1 Sam 24:11). David was crying out to be fathered and groomed, not to be hunted by a father.
Many of us cry out for accountability and submission to a spiritual leader. We want someone who can guide and nurture us. We want someone whom we can look up to, someone who is interested in our well-being. We need someone who will not cut us off just to protect themselves; but a leader who is not insecure in their calling. We need leaders who are not too concerned with their own goals that they will compromise their children’s growth, integrity and wholeness for it. We need someone who will recognize our gifts and callings, and help us advance but not for their own benefits alone.
Unfortunately, this is not what we always get. Many leaders nowadays are too busy seeking to use their ministries as a platform to pursue their own desires and satisfy their insecurities. They are always ready to justify their actions at the expense of the wounded. They are willing to help their children advance in their ministries as long as it benefits them. But as soon as they see any of their children as a threat to their positions, they have no qualms in destroying them.
We often wondered where we went wrong. It is one thing one thing to be rejected by a brother; but nothing can be compared to being rejected or disowned by a father. Like anyone suffering from abuse, we take the blame upon ourselves. We think that we must have done something wrong to deserve this treatment, though we can think of none. Often, rejection by a spiritual leader is more painful than that of a biological father because we expect that spiritual fathers should know better. We think that they should have known how to love as God does. The higher the expectations, the deeper the pain.
Of course, like earthy fathers, not all spiritual fathers are bad. There are leaders who love the people and work hard to accept and nurture them. But unfortunately in the world that we live in today, such leaders are hard to come by. And once you have been betrayed, you will find it hard to trust authority figures again.
God as a Father
We have a Father who loves us unconditionally and with a love that is so wide that it cannot be measured. Unfortunately, we cannot understand the depth of God’s love because of what we go through with our earthly and spiritual fathers. But whatever your experiences with the fathers around you may be, one thing remains the truth – God is the only perfect Father.
Romans 8: 17 has this to say: 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Two verses before that in v15, Paul says that ‘For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."’ Sons are not slaves – if you are a son, you cannot be a slave. Slaves are driven to work for their masters. They have no inheritance, they have to work hard to gain their masters’ approval. But a son is accepted by the father for who he is, unconditionally. He does not have to strive hard to earn that love, but does his duties simply as a son. A son inherits whatever the father has, and he is the heir to the Father’s throne.
We do not deserve to be God’s children, to receive His unconditional love and forgiveness. And yet in Ephesians 1:5 Paul says that we have been predestined (To fix upon, decide, or decree in advance; foreordain) to be adopted by Jesus. God has chosen us in advance even when we were formed in our mother’s womb, and He knows that we will be His. His acceptance of us has nothing to do with our achievements or anything that we have done. He accepts you just as you are.
Conditional love carries with it a lot of fear – the fear of abuse, the fear of being rejected, and the fear of not being good enough. But because God’s love is unconditional and perfect, it casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We can now come before our Father and experience the depth of a Father’s love and the warmth of His embrace. We can now be like little children, and simply enjoy His presence.
Often, we even refuse to believe that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us because we do not want to be disappointed anymore. We would rather be satisfied with the thought that a father’s love do not exist, at least not for some of us. Sometimes hoping for something that we have never have, but need, is scary.
As difficult as it is to imagine, God’s love can never be compared to a human love. He is the best substitute for your father – biological and spiritual. Though we still need earthly and spiritual fathers, they will still fail us and cause us to think that God will treat us the same way.
The Father heart of God remains the same – steadfast, passionate, loving and enduring. Allow your hearts to be healed and filled with the Father’s love again, that you may be set free to love and to be loved. Remember, that perfect love casts out ALL fear, even the fear of coming near to God. And remember this: absolutely nothing can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:29 – 35).