Belonging; February 6, 2018

Isaiah 63:16 But you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Everyone has a fundamental need to be acknowledged, to belong. Some would try to deny that, cherishing their vaunted “independence,” but that’s a sham, a false front put up to comfort themselves. Isaiah was here speaking as a devout believer who probably experienced a good bit of rejection, since as Jesus pointed out, prophets often run into that sort of thing. (Luke 4:23-24) However expected it might be, it’s still painful. Isaiah’s statement is pretty extreme, speaking as a Jew of being unknown to Abraham or acknowledged by Israel. That would indicate that people around him were saying things like, “What kind of a Jew are you, prophesying like that?” He found his comfort in the assurance that God hadn’t discarded him, whatever people might do. Sometimes we are in need of exactly the same assurance. Saints through the ages have experienced rejection, because they “march to the beat of a different drummer” than society around them. When my mother was a single missionary in 1936 she made friends with a young girl, Akiko, who wanted to learn English. They exchanged language lessons, and in the process Akiko came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. When she told her parents, she was thrown out of the house, literally, and my mother took her into her own apartment, arranging for her to be able to go all the way from Tokyo, where they were, to a Christian school in Nagasaki. That forged a bond that was so strong, when my mother’s ashes were buried, Akiko was the family representative who spoke to those assembled. Akiko discovered that when God is your Father, you have a family that is far bigger and stronger than simple “blood ties.” Isaiah knew that, and we need to remember it as well.

I have experienced plenty of rejection in my life, but thankfully not from my blood kin. One of my deepest inner hurts has been knowing I will never be accepted as Japanese by the vast majority of Japanese, because they define such things in terms of genetics. It makes no difference that I was born here and have actually lived here for over 51 years. (In America I also experienced rejection, because of my very different background. During my year of high school in Tennessee, one of my nicknames was “Jack the Jap.”) Like Isaiah, I have had to be comforted by the realization that my belonging is based on God, and not on any human criterion. I need to let my experience generate genuine compassion for those around me who feel rejected, pointing them to the loving heavenly Father who accepts all who come to Him in humble repentance.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me be Your child indeed, accurately reflecting Your character, so that many around me may be drawn to repentance and faith, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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