Loving Ourselves As God Loves Us

And just like that, 2014 is well underway.* For some people, the new year is always a time to make resolutions which usually last for about a week.  I won’t complain because that’s how it always was for me. But I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore. I’ve learned that when it comes to making changes in my life, it takes much resolve than just an annual holiday to do so.

However, with every day I want to be a better Christian than I was before and I’m sure you do as well. We want to be a followers of Jesus who loves God and neighbor, who loves our spouses and children, who loves our brothers and sisters in Christ… Of course, we don’t always do that as we should. After all, we are mere mortals.

But Can We Love Ourselves?

Here’s a suggestion: let’s learn to love ourselves as God loves us. I’m not talking about some self-serving love where we put ourselves above others. Far from it, I am suggesting that we learn to accept ourselves as God accepts us — which we don’t always do well.

I love the prayer of David in Psalm 51. This prayer is David’s response after becoming convicted of his sin involving the affair he had with Bathsheba and his involvement in the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband (cf. 2 Sam 11). From our human perspective, it’s hard to do more evil than that. Yet David turned to God in prayer and confession.

The most well known portion of this prayer is perhaps vv. 10-12, the three verses we sometimes sing as a hymn,

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

I used to read this Psalm as though David is bartering for absolution of his sin. It is as though if David will just offer a sincere enough confession and apology then God might just forgive him and restore his salvation. Such is the influence of a legalistic Christianity where God’s merit is earned by what we do. As it is, this makes us believe that penance is necessary when it comes to sin. If we will just pray a sincere enough prayer, confess appropriately, and so on, then maybe God just might…

I don’t want to minimize or negate the place of prayer and confession, as both are essential disciplines in the process of spiritual transformation. But neither prayer nor confession earns favor with God! David begins his prayer saying in v. 1, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (NRSV). Think about that! David is coming to God in prayer and confession knowing that the Lord already loves him with such a great mercy and that nothing will ever change this. David knows what we must know, that God still accepts him, that God will forgive him and restore him to the divine image bearing person he has been created to be.

Perhaps Then…

That is it! We all know who we are… the good and bad, the beautiful and the ugly. But God loves us still and in his great mercy, God still accepts as we are and offers us the grace of forgiveness and restoration. So let’s learn to love ourselves as God loves us. Pray to God, confessing our sins and mistakes as necessary, but do so knowing that God already loves us with steadfast love and an abundant mercy. Perhaps then we can learn to better love others as they are, as God already loves them!

——————–

* A similar article of the same title was originally published in Connecting 29 (January 8, 2014), a biweekly publication of the Columbia Church of Christ.

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9 responses to “Loving Ourselves As God Loves Us

  1. As it is written, “God requires all men everywhere, to repent, or else perish.” Acts 17:30, 2 peter 3:9 Luke 13;3,5 Luke 24:46,47. Repentance is a change of mind and action, matt 21:28,29, a turning to God, Acts 26:20, Luke 17:4. Do this and God’s grace will be given. Your right, confession and an apology won’t cut it. As David knew, he couldn’t remain in his sin and be pleasing to God, he had to change, therefore, God will not accept us as we are, we must change. Sin separates us from Him. Love and acceptance are not the same thing. I will always love my children, but I will not always accept what they do. Throughout biblical history, God’s acceptance, has always hinged upon our obedience. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Why do you call Me Lord, and do not the things that I say.”?

    • Which comes first, God’s grace or our obedience… Who accepts who first?

      “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:9-10.

  2. If God had already accepted us, then there would have been no need of the perfect sacrifice. Man’s sins had alienated him from God. They needed to be brought back. God’s grace was extended to all men. The question then becomes, will man accept it? God showed his love for man yes, we show our love for Him by being obedient. Your equating love as acceptance, they are not the same thing. God will always love us, he will not always accept us. To answer your question, God extended His grace first. We accept it through obedience, Offering grace and acceptance are not the same thing either.

    • So that’s how the Father loves his children…he loves them but does not accept them? Strange! The children certainly reject their Father’s love and therefore reject his acceptance of them but the Father not accepting his children unless… That’s not grace!

  3. So, if God accepts all of us and our sins, why did Jesus have to die? Could David continue to steal other men’s wives and have them killed? If you remember there was a time when God looked at His creation, (man) and said it was good. Then later He said he was sorry that He ever created them, because of their wickedness. He no longer accepted His creation, because of what they had become. He gave them the law of Moses to show them their transgressions. That old law couldn’t save them, it only moved their sins forward year to year by sacrifices. Now, inter the grace of God, the sacrifice that would save men’s souls only if they accept the terms. He required them to “change” to become new creatures. The only way to be a new creature, to walk in newness of life, is to obey the gospel. Then we become ‘sons” “heirs” of the heavenly kingdom. “We are saved by “grace” through faith”. Grace is God’s goodness, what He has done and provided for us. Man has a choice to make, do I obey and become accepted or do I reject the offer and become disqualified and not accepted. God destroyed the world and only eight souls were saved, accepted because of their faithfulness, everyone else was rejected because of their un-faithfulness. What about the children of Israel? God loved them dearly. But their disobedience cost them. In the end only a remnant was saved. A father who loves his children, requires and expects obedience, when they are, they are showing the father, respect as well as their love. Are you sure your not a Baptist?

    • I’m sorry to say but this is about the most ridiculous response to this simple blogpost that was written with Christians in mind who sometimes struggle with loving themselves as God loves them. The post has nothing to do with how people became sinners and how God is saving sinners from their sin, so your entire line of seemingly accusatory questioning is pointless.

  4. Do you know what God’s grace is?

  5. Your the one who said “penance” was not necessary when it comes to sin. David had to repent, his prayer was his intent to do just that.

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