No one likes to be excluded, left out, or ignored. We actually go to great lengths to be accepted; everything from clothes to speech and friendships gets filtered through the test of cultural acceptance. This happens gradually, so gradually that we may not even be aware of its importance to us until exclusion stares us in the face and challenges our decisions, accomplishments, and values. Those things that vie for our attention, time, and approval, demand that we bow to the pressure of their “importance.” Without the appearance of certain things in our lives – money, popularity, and security – we risk exclusion from those groups that are esteemed in society.
To get included, it’s amazing the lengths we go to the “sell” ourselves and seem “worthy” of acceptance. I remember there was a time in my life when I was part of a group where each person was expected to refer and have people be referred to them by others in the group for the purpose of growing one another’s businesses. The principle sounded logical and needing new business, I was hopeful that this group would bring help my way. Getting entrance into the group was a process but somehow I managed the hefty fee and was approved. Each week, I had to give a short minutes-long speech that would hopefully convince other members to help me. There was even a trophy that circulated among those few (usually a select few in the group) who gave the best speech. Pictures would be taken and updates would be posted on social media. Defeated, I never won the trophy and after a year, let my membership go. I felt utterly defeated and my speeches on what a good job I could do seemed to be all for naught.
As I reflect on those days, I see how that scenario, although extreme, plays itself out almost daily on those of us who are lured into trying to gain acceptance by noting all of our achievements. Those achievements, which one day are acceptable and the next day useless as society changes, do little to secure our worth.
Romans 3:27a ESV “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded…”
There is a group, one that I’m profoundly thankful to be part of, that doesn’t require me to make a flowery speech about how good I am at what I do. The speeches given at that group are always of the Founder Who takes all of His qualifications and gives them freely to those who request entrance. No one is ever turned away or denied entrance because of their personal flaws. Were our entrance based on our accomplishments, each application would be marked, “Denied.”
Yet, by grace and mercy, as we are accepted, the only exclusionary clause is boasting of ourselves. That gets left at the door, the pressure to perform is gone, and everyone is in the same category: saved by faith. The only requirement is accepting free entry offered by the Founder.
Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”