Have you ever felt excluded from an event or group because you did not meet someone else’s standards? How about feeling rejected by others because you were considered “not good enough”? According to social scientists, inherent in the process of growing and developing as a person to achieve individual potential is our need to be accepted for who we are. At our core, we want to be loved and accepted unconditionally. Nevertheless, it seems parts of the media have done and continue to do a masterful job in making some people feel personally inadequate. Advertisers tell us we are too fat, too slim, not beautiful enough, we need to buy this and/or that to get our desired look, to become more attractive. For some people, it is pressure from families, friends, and most regrettably, spouses. It is as if we are encouraged to strive for something that is always out of our reach and some of us have spent hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, trying.
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on Romans 5:8 where Paul writes, “But God commendeth [showed] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (KJV). Stop and read the verse again. Paraphrased in The Message Bible it reads, “But God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.” That is right. While we were yet sinners, while we were of no use whatsoever to Him, God accepted us as a people worth saving. It is easy to gloss over this wonderful truth. To fully understand the extent to which God pursues the sinner is to understand that to be a sinner is to be His enemy (Romans 5:10). We came into the world as sinners, as enemies of God, and so from the very beginning we were not “good enough.” Yet God, because of His great love, looked beyond our sins, our faults, our imperfections, our weaknesses, and saw something in us that He deemed valuable. We were not only loved and accepted, but unconditionally as well.
Not only did God have warm thoughts towards us, covered as we were in the ugliness of sin, but He demonstrated His love and acceptance by giving His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus took our place and through dying on the cross, saved us from an eternal hell. It is important to note that God did not stipulate that for Him to love us we first had to become “good enough.” While we may struggle with our insecurities in our efforts to be loved and accepted by those around us, God loves and accepts us the way we are. Bishop Hugh William Montefiore (1920-2005) was right when he said, “Christianity is about acceptance, and if God accepts me as I am, then I had better do the same.” Our thoughts and feelings about ourselves should be based on this unshakeable truth and not on some secular media-driven standards.
While we may not be able to meet and live up to the standards of others, we can rest comfortably in the fact that God loves and accepts us the way we are. Theologian Paul Tillich puts it this way, “Accept the fact that you are accepted.” God’s intent is that we enter into a relationship with Him, through Christ, and allow Him to work out His purposes in our lives. It is difficult to struggle with low self-esteem when we embrace His love and acceptance. No matter who you are, what you have done, or what you look like, God loves you and He has demonstrated that love for the whole world to see. To be loved and accepted unconditionally feels wonderful, doesn’t it? Think about that the next time you look into the mirror.