Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Accepting Ourselves as We Are

We are told that God accepts us just the way we are. This is very true--or very false, depending on how is taken. God forgives us freely and makes us His children based on our putting our faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; John 1:12,13). He does this despite the fact of our sin (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), based on what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13-15; 1 Peter 2:24,25). As a result, we are righteous and no longer condemned in God's sight (Romans 5:1,2; 8:33,34; Philippians 3:9). Therefore, there is a sense in which we can accept ourselves as God has accepted us.

But there is another form of self-acceptance to which God does not contribute. This is based on the idea that we are all basically good deep inside and all our flaws are superficial and result from trying to please others and not being ourselves. Therefore, if we would just accept ourselves as we are, our real inner self would come out. In order to accomplish this, we co-opt the acceptance of God and other people. But the problem with this is, it is not true. We are sinners, and there are things inside of us that should not be actualized in our lives. Plus if we accept ourselves in this way, there is no basis for any deep change, for if the real me is good, I can only change those things that I can justify regarding as the outer facade. After I have struggled with accomplishing this myself, I may turn to God and His acceptance as a means to achieve self-acceptance. When this does not work (which it cannot, since this is not what God's acceptance is about), we can turn to the Christian community as a means to procure this acceptance. This can be destructive of Christian community because it demands of others the type of acceptance they cannot give because it is impossible, being based on a false view of reality. Also they themselves are sinners and cannot even produce the legitimate type of acceptance perfectly. We end up chasing a will-o-the-wisp that cannot be found anywhere.

And in all this, it is the correct Biblical idea of acceptance which forms the best basis for real change. It is only as I realize I am a forgiven sinner that I recognize that God requires me to change (Titus 2:11-14; Romans 12:1,2; 1 Corinthians 6:20) and am motivated to change by God's love for me (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Luke 7:36-50). Also, when we do this, God begins to work in our life to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 2:10). But this transformation is the result of a long-term process rather than a momentary realization (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:14). But it is rooted in the only kind of acceptance we can have at the present time. An acceptance not rooted in our goodness, but in the forgiveness of our sinfulness.

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