This is still in progress, but I thought I'd share what I have written so far.

We need acceptance.

Acceptance is so important to us.  It is something we long for, search for, and need to live a happy, content life.  If we have come from a background where acceptance was not given, or at least not given freely, it can lead us to a lifetime of trying to get acceptance from those in our lives--to the point of losing ourselves, even.  Our greatest fear can be, and often is, rejection.  So we do all we can to avoid rejection.  We won't  say or do anything that could cause someone discomfort, pain, anger, dislike for us, because we need their acceptance so badly.  Unfortunately, we can go through life and never really know who we are or what we really like or dislike because we live for the acceptance from others.

The Bible has some things to say about acceptance and rejection.  First of all, I've learned that the only real acceptance comes from accepting ourselves.  For me, this comes when I realize that God accepts me just as I am.  I don't have to put on a show, wear a mask, or pretend I'm something that I'm not.  I can be myself.  I can be real.  No matter what I do or don't do, I have his acceptance.  From there, I can begin to accept myself as a special human being, created by God in his image.  However, this has not come easy, it has been a difficult place to reach since acceptance was so lacking in the early years of  my life.

God tells us to love each other and accept each other.  We are to love others enough to be there for them, help them bear their burdens, cry with them, laugh with them, and even confront them when necessary.  We know that all these things are good when we do something so simple as watching parents love their children.  Parents who love their children provide for the child's needs, even when the "need" is discipline.  Parents laugh and cry with their children.  When their children do good, they are filled with pride and joy for the child.  When the child does wrong, they are saddened and disappointed.  They are there when the child has a bad dream, and inspire the child to dream good dreams.  Love has many roles, and the same is true in personal relationships.

The love-acceptance-deprived person cannot love the way they should love.  Because they are constantly looking for love, they cannot love others the way they should, and this results in what looks like acceptance, but is actually fear of rejection.  When a person that is love-acceptance-deprived is wronged by someone else, they fear to confront the person because they themselves don't want to be rejected.  However, true love, as we know from the example of loving parents, does confront those who have done wrong, tells them that they are wrong, and stands their ground.  By confronting a person that has done wrong, the door to repentance, forgiveness, and ultimately reconciliation becomes opened, but the possibility of rejection also becomes a reality.  Some cannot handle being confronted because they are unwilling to change, or see it as rejection, but the alternative to confronting someone who has wronged us is to hold it inside, to allow our own heart to be burdened and ruled by bitterness, resentment, and grudges.

The truth is:  People are going to reject me.

The flip side to the coin, which I am finding difficulty embracing, is the part where Jesus said, "Don't think it strange if the world doesn't accept you.  They hated me and they will hate you."  He came to bring a sword, not peace, as we think of peace.  Now that I've found what it is to be fully accepted by God and by myself and by some others, I have to face the awful truth that there are people out there who will not simply dislike me, but will hate me.  Because I teach what the Bible says, and confront others when they do wrong, they won't hate me and keep their feelings to themselves, but it may even go so far as to cause persecution, and perhaps even death.

This has never been such a reality to me as it has in the last number of years.  I'd even begun to think that the non-Christian will 'love' me, not hate me, because I have Christ within, making me a more loving and better person.  But no...having Christ within, and standing up for His truth makes me the enemy.  I can feel love toward people who are living a lifestyle I don't believe is right, but I'm accused of hating them because I don't believe what they do is right.  I'm accused of being narrow-minded because I believe that Christ is the way to heaven--the only way.  That, somehow, means that I'm not tolerant, not accepting of others.  In societies mind, I'm a bigot.  I'm one of those who have beliefs that are "dangerous."  Because I have tried to be loving, and actually tell people that they are wrong according to the truth written in the Bible, I am told that I am filled with "hate."  The country tells me that they tolerate everyone's religion, but they don't tolerate me actually believing my religion and saying that it is the right religion, whereas, if I did not believe it was the only way, how could I say I honestly believed it.

So, I wonder, can I make that stand.  Can I break through my fears of rejection by saying the truth...not 'my truth', but God's truth as laid out in His Word, the Bible.  Can I risk being hated, ridiculed, persecuted, accused falsely?  Can I be true to God and myself regardless of the possibility of consequences, despite the fear of rejection?

Many throughout history have spoken out the truth and they have even been murdered for their stand.  To name a few: Martin Luther King, Jr., most of the disciples of Jesus, and Jesus himself.  Today Christians who have dared speak out the truth are labeled as bigots and right-wing fundamentalist simply because their belief is based on the Bible.  Dr. James Dobson,  Dan Quale, and others have been condemned, criticized, falsely accused because they won't compromise the Word of God and they won't lock themselves in their homes and keep quiet for the sake of acceptance.  The tide has shifted.  Our country is not a 'Christian' country as many of us are learning.  The 'Christian' is now the only group of people that it is okay to be intolerant of because we are supposedly intolerant. (Now I'm not saying that some don't deserve the criticisms.  Too many times, Christians have come across as hateful of the person instead of the sin, and some have put their foot in their mouth and said things I hope they later regretted.)

It used to be the 'other' countries...Russia, China, Africa, New Guinea...that people were at risk of death if they proclaimed the truth of God's word.  Only those called to such a task would have to go.  But now, the going is to our next door neighbor, our co-workers, our community, our country.   Kids gathering around the flag pole  to pray were singled out and killed.  Two teens were asked if they were Christians, and upon answering in the affirmative were shot at another school.  Now had these kids been gay, or of another race, the media would have spread the news of a hate crime being committed against these poor unsuspecting kids.  However, because it was a matter of Christianity, hardly any mention of it was made.

If someone dares to speak openly about abortion and the rights of the unborn, he is quickly labeled and disregarded as a fundamentalist, right-wing Christian who wants to force his beliefs on everyone.  No one thinks about how men gave their lives to free the slaves, that the people who fought to free the slaves were likely labeled "intolerant" of slavery.  No one mentions that these "right-wing fundamentalists" are fighting to save what they consider a human life...Why?  It is because we are in a country that is living in denial.  We are in denial that we are killing innocent babies.  We don't want to see the atrocities that we ourselves are capable of committing in the name of "rights" or "choice" or "freedom."  We justify our homicides by calling the babies fetuses, just like the Nazi's justified the murder of Jews by dehumanizing them, just like serial killers justify their murders in their own mind by dehumanizing their victims.  If that same fetus were a wanted fetus, it is miraculously a baby, and if a criminal stabs and kills a pregnant woman, he is charged with a "double" murder--how can you murder fetal tissue?--It is completely hypocritical of us, when the same woman could legally have an abortion all the way to the ninth month of pregnancy because it's only a "fetus," only part of her "own" body.  The media is quick to point out the hypocrisy of Christians, but quick to ignore the hypocrisy of an entire country.

So the question I am left asking myself is, "Am I willing to really be 'me'.  Am I willing to stand up for what I believe?  Or am I going to become the 'old me' who was afraid of the rejection of others, who wanted to blend in with the background?  Jesus said, "He that loses his life, finds it."  Giving my life to Christ is essentially 'losing' my life.  But in giving my life to Christ, I find that I can truly be me.  I can be honest and true to myself and to God.  I don't have to hide behind a mask because I am accepted in Him.  And I can't lose that acceptance because He already knows me better than I know myself and loves me anyway.  I know I don't want to be afraid of rejection and 'lose' myself in the true sense of the word by hiding and keeping quiet about what I think and how I feel.  Knowing that Jesus, himself, was rejected and martyred because he brought and spoke truth helps me to put it in perspective.  If I really believe, I will stand up for those beliefs and stand behind them.  If I really believe, I will be willing to put my very life on the line as did so many before me.

I do want to clarify something.  By not fearing rejection and standing up for what I believe, I don't mean that I, or anyone else, should be abusive or condemning of people.  Jesus said there is no condemnation to those who love him, and he didn't approach people in an arrogant, abusive, or critical way.  He loved people and he simply told them the truth.  His truth was offering something water to the woman at the well, healing for the lepers, abundant life for all who choose life in him.  Jesus didn't focus on the sin in a person's life.  He focused on the positive.  I can't cower in a corner and be afraid to share my life and those things that are precious to me because someone may decide they don't like me for my beliefs.    What I have to come to terms with is the fact that some people won't like me when they get to know me better, and that's okay.  It really isn't about me, it's about them and their inability to accept me in spite of what I believe.   The fear of rejection only keeps me at a distance from people and prevents the closeness we all need and crave in relationships...but more importantly,  I'm rejecting  my true self and God.