Let’s look at where our desire for acceptance comes from, how we place it on the throne of our hearts, and what Christ wants to do about it.
In the beginning, before there was light or air or any creation, there was community. God exists outside of time as one God who is three persons. This truth, that caused great discussion in the early centuries of the church and that still confuses people from other religions, lends insight into who we were created to be.
When God said, “Let us make mankind in our image,” He made us to enjoy being in a community with Himself. Our relationship with the Creator is the relationship that we were made for before anything else. And then yes, God made Eve to give Adam a community that was flesh just like his. Community is what we were made for.
That’s why deep down in our heart, we long to belong. We crave acceptance, a place amongst the people around us. That desire is meant to point us to the most important relationship we were made for.
It’s not a surprise that, like many of our desires that may become idols, we start looking to acceptance as the thing that will satisfy us, that will make us happy. Our longing to belong becomes the driving desire of our life, monitoring every decision we make to see how it will affect others opinions of us.
High school is (at least in my life) one of the places this desire thrives. While it doesn’t stop after you’re out of high school, a lot of us are or have recently been there, and we can see how our drive for acceptance affected many of our decisions. What wouldn’t we do for acceptance?
Who do you want your friends to be? What do they wear? Wear that. What do they talk about? Do your research. What do they enjoy? That’s your new favorite thing. Who will give you attention? Spend time with them. If they’re of the opposite sex, why not date them? Dating relationships are a great place to find acceptance. What are you good at? Put effort into it. If you come out on top for academics, leadership, sports, or whatever extracurricular activity floats your boat, people will know who you are. You’ll have a place in society. You’ll be liked. Or even better, why not get involved at your church? The people there are nice, and everyone will think you’re pretty spiritual when they see what you’re doing.
This is what we believe. If you look back through that paragraph, you’ll see that most of the suggestions aren’t inherently evil, nor are they flat out lies. But when the motivation behind these things is so that we will be accepted, we’ve forgotten something. Or rather, someone. When our lives are aimed at earning acceptance, we’ve taken God off the throne.
Adam did that too. When Eve handed him the forbidden fruit, he had a choice. He could trust God that it was in his best interest to not let that fruit cross his lips, or he could join his wife and eat the fruit. Maybe he was worried about what would happen to her since she had eaten it and wanted to join her, maybe he thought he would look weak if she ate it and he didn’t, maybe she had convinced him it was harmless, even good. All we know is that Adam chose Eve over God. His actions followed her instead of God. And it cost more than he could have imagined. With God off the throne, anarchy ensued in his life. Now we’re the same way, picking priorities incorrectly and letting everything fall out of balance. The things we chase just cannot deliver.
With acceptance as your god, you can never please everybody. Often you cannot please those most important to you. Rejection, and even just feeling like you don’t measure up, will leave you wrecked. We chased acceptance with its promises of community, and what we got was an imperfect community with imperfect people who cannot satisfy our hearts desires, because they are not God.
So how do we dethrone this little-g god? How do we get this idol off the throne of our hearts? Why would we want to? The answer is not found in strict discipline, nor in depriving ourselves of community. The answer lies in finding acceptance in the relationship we were made to be satisfied by. To quote Kyle Idleman, “Idols are defeated not by being removed, but by being replaced.” Replaced by something better.
Here’s what God has done: even though you and I turned away to seek acceptance among other gods after He had created us for a relationship with Him, He pursued us. He gave Abraham a promise to bless us, He gave Moses a Law to guide us. For centuries He pursued Israel in their fickleness, enjoying Him for short times before turning back to other gods. Oftentimes Israel’s history of turning back to and away from God again looks very similar to my week. Finally Jesus Christ came. He lived a life perfectly pleasing to God, and died for my rebellion and for your rebellion. Rising again, He offers us eternal life and adoption into His family. God wants to accept us. He calls us to turn from our idols and run back to Him.
“This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent —Jesus Christ.” – John 17:3 (HCSB)
“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7 (HCSB)
The greatest picture of acceptance is the God-Man dying to make you acceptable to Himself so that you can have a relationship with Him. The relationship we were made for and saved for is the place where we find acceptance that always comes through. When we let that relationship be first, and submit ourselves to God’s rule of our hearts, then He satisfies our desires the way they were designed to be, especially our desire for acceptance.
How do we respond? Check your heart to see how you’ve been allowing acceptance to rule you. Bring it before God and surrender to His acceptance of you. Enjoy your relationship with the One that desire was made for.