The Jesus Who Accepts Us
This summer, the student authors of the Rooted Student Series give us a taste of the themes we explore in our upcoming book, The Jesus I Wish I Knew in High School. As students either currently in high school, college, or just recently graduated, our writers offer us a fresh and unique perspective of the Jesus they got to know in high school or wish they had known when they were younger. Their stories and their wisdom will help youth leaders and parents guide their students through high school and point them to Jesus. -Rooted Student Series Editor Lauren Center
While they were not nearly as dramatic as Disney shows made them out to be, social hierarchies certainly existed in my high school. Interestingly, they were different depending on the group, class, club, or sports team. Some ranked people by popularity, others by academic prowess, and still others by athletic ability or some other talent.
It’s good to encourage especially gifted individuals to use the blessings God has granted to them, but doing so becomes troublesome when people start to see skill as the measure of one’s value. Consequently, people evaluate themselves and others on the basis of their social standing. For me, this was a recurring issue in high school.
Depending on the setting, my social standing was different. In some circles, I was spoken of highly, while in others I was treated the same as everyone else and yet, in others I was regularly mistreated. I was not among the most skilled in some of my extracurricular activities, such as football, and though I worked hard, some players ignored me, reviled me, and refused to help me.
It was clear that even some of the coaches had their favorite players, to whom they dedicated more training time than other players. I understand that the more skilled players were rightfully given priority in practice and in games, but it should not have resulted in the neglect of the rest of the team. Players had to demonstrate a certain level of talent before coaches would invest in them. Most of the instances in which I recall receiving encouraging instruction only followed an improved execution of a play or drill.
Unsurprisingly, that acceptance was short lived. I faced ridicule from teammates when I lacked consistency, and some of my teammates would lie about me to gain favor with the coaches. I even remember one of the coaches leaving only my name off of the depth chart when he wasn’t satisfied with my performance. He would not even look at me or give me advice, but affectionately joked with the other players.
Some might point out that it would have probably been best to leave the team, and I can see that is true in retrospect, but I had bought into the message that my place in the hierarchy determined my worth, and I was determined to prove myself so I would be accepted and respected. To my detriment, I remained involved with this team for about two years.
Thankfully, God is always at work for His glory, which includes the good of those saved by Christ. Through those repeated relational disappointments in football, other extracurricular activities, and social interactions, God led me to treasure my relationship with Him more. He showed me that the most important acceptance I would ever receive was not from the people who thought I was great and celebrated my accomplishments, nor would it come from the people whose approval I labored for and failed to earn.
In God’s eyes, I was accepted because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died in the place of sinners to secure eternal life to be enjoyed with God. Psalm 105:11-12 reads, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” All who trust in Him alone for salvation from God’s wrath and cleansing from sin are credited with the perfect obedience of Christ and adopted by God as His children. Acceptance by God through Jesus is the only stable foundation for love that we can receive.
People are fickle and imperfect. God is immutably merciful and kind, patient with us despite our countless transgressions of His law, and He loves to pour blessings on us. His love for us does not diminish even when we’re the ones mistreating people because we judge that their performance or personality does not meet our standards. Because He loves us, He will discipline us to be more like Christ, but we aren’t accepted by Him any more or less based on our deeds.
I can now happily celebrate the effects of my change in perspective. God is glorified in my strengthened belief that His unchanging love and acceptance of me is more important and satisfying than the unreliable love and acceptance I can receive from others. The Lord our God is superior to all creation in every way.
Enjoying the truth that God’s acceptance of me is not based on my deeds eased my anxiety a great deal. Other people’s approval is not the foundation of my joy, and it was difficult for me to see that at the time, but God has made it clear and increasingly clear throughout my years.
For high school students who are enduring rejection because of your failure to measure up, remember that God did not make us to be satisfied by accolades or others’ approval of those accolades. God is the one for whom and by whom all things exist (Hebrews 2:10). If you have trusted in Christ alone for salvation, you can trust that God has counted His perfect record as yours, and you are forever accepted and loved by the eternal God. He is faithful to hold us near when we fail, and He is also faithful to stand alongside us as we make efforts, by His grace, to achieve goals for His glory.
Ask yourself a few questions to see where God would have you mature in Christlikeness. Do you really value God’s unchanging, infinite love for you over the love of others around you? If not, ask God to show you that His love for you in Christ far surpasses any human affection. Are you allowing a misguided association of worth and work to justify resentment toward those who perform better than you or those who perform poorly? Aim to mirror the infinite love God shows to us undeserving sinners in Christ in every interaction. Believe the gospel that God sent His Son into the world to die in place of rebellious sinners. He resurrected on the third day and now intercedes for His people. By simple faith in Christ, God will welcome you as His own child and grant you eternal life.