Loved, Forgiven and Redeemed Every Day

Do you ever peel the sticker off your windshield before you get your oil changed? I never want Jiffy Lube to know I’ve gone over my mileage. Maybe you make sure your tire pressure’s okay or clean the junk out of the floor before you take your car in for service. Do any of you “pre-clean” before the cleaning service comes or make a special effort to fix your hair before getting a haircut? Maybe you spend hours carefully curating your Facebook profile.

Who doesn’t try to lose a few pounds before that wedding or class reunion? Who doesn’t pay careful attention to what they’ll wear or maybe even buy few new things before a special event or family gathering? In the third week of the New Year, many of us are still working on self-improvement goals. Some of us may have target dates or events in the spring or summer that we’re working toward or aiming for.

We all want to present ourselves in the best possible light, so we spend an inordinate amount of time working to present ourselves as slightly better than we know ourselves to be. A little more conscientious. A little smarter.  A little more polished.  A little more secure and self-assured.  A little happier.  A little more attractive.  A little more pious.  A little more righteous. A little more successful.  A little more with it and together. A little more.

We don’t want others to see us as people who doubt. We don’t want to be seen as people who hurt.  We don’t want people to know we’re scared or lonely or insecure.  We don’t want anyone to ever know we feel out of place or don’t have all the answers or struggle with sin.  We hide our failures and embellish our successes.  And we never quite feel comfortable being fully ourselves.

For a lot of us, there are few places where we are less comfortable being fully ourselves than at church.  At church we feel a need to hide our humanity, as if we are expected to have an eternally divine disposition.  And we don’t just feel the need to shield ourselves from fellow church members; we often seek to present an embellished version of ourselves to God.

Remember this week that Christ was fully human.  To be human is to be like Christ.  Because God in Jesus became like us (Phil 2:5-8), God knows doubt and hurt.  God in Jesus Christ has been scared and lonely and insecure. God knows what it’s like to feel out of place, to feel the need to hide weakness and the temptation to embellish success. God knows what it’s like to try to hide our true identities.

Remember also, that you don’t need to present the polished version of yourself to God.  God’s acceptance isn’t something we earn by our behavior.  We don’t need to be righteous enough or pious enough; in fact, we can’t be pious enough or righteous enough.

The Bible clearly teaches that God’s love comes first, last and in the middle regardless of what we say and do. God doesn’t love us because of what we do; God loves us because of who we are.  We are God’s masterpieces, created in God’s own image. The Christian life is a process of becoming better versions of ourselves in response to God’s love rather than in an attempt to earn it.

In 2014, we’ll be placing a special emphasis on group Bible study and Christian formation.  As we dive more deeply into God’s word together, I hope you’ll discover again (or for the first time) that we are loved, forgiven and redeemed every day; that there is no one who more fully accepts our unvarnished selves than God; and that there’s no place better than church to learn to accept and reveal the people that God created us to be.

2 thoughts on “Loved, Forgiven and Redeemed Every Day

  1. Calvin Johnson

    One Sunday morning an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn out old hat and an equally worn out Bible.

    The church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church the old cowboy had ever seen. The people of the congregation were all dressed with expensive clothes and accessories. As the cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to, or welcomed him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide it.

    The preacher gave a long sermon about Hellfire and brimstone and a stern lecture on how much money the church needed to do God’s work. As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favor. “Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worship.”

    The old cowboy assured the preacher he would. The next Sunday, he showed back up for the services wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored.

    The preacher approached the man and said, “I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church.”

    “I did,” replied the old cowboy.

    “If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshiping in here?” asked the preacher.

    “Well, sir, God told me that He didn’t have a clue what I should wear. He said He’d never been in this church before.”

    Reply

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