Born this way?
Whether you’re a Christian or not, you’ve likely heard someone say that God accepts us as we are. At best, this is a half truth. At worst, it can be used as an excuse to continue doing things that are stupid, harmful, evil or all of the above. If God accepts us as we are, then what’s the point of bothering with all this right and wrong nonsense? Let’s just live and do whatever we want, because God accepts us as we are … right?
Missing the point
The biggest and most dangerous problem with this feel-good cliche is that it completely removes the need for Jesus. It makes his life, death and resurrection meaningless. The Jesus of the Bible ends up being belittled to suit our convenience, rather than being elevated to his rightful position of Lord and Saviour.
What do I mean? Here's the difference:
- If we say 'God accepts us as we are', then the key to our salvation is God’s unconditional acceptance of us.
- In reality, the key to our salvation is the free gift of grace that has been given to us through Jesus.
Being accepted > being found
So to correct the cliche, God does find us where we are but he does not accept us as we are. This may seem like splitting hairs, but there is a major difference between being found and being accepted.
Let me give an example.
I recently heard a story of a woman named Sarah, who worked as a dancer in a strip club. One evening, while she was on stage, about midway through a shift she had worked countless times, in front of many of the same customers and other dancers, she suddenly felt the presence of God so powerfully around her that she nearly fell over!
When she told the story to a Christian friend, it didn’t take much to convince her, that God had found her in that strip club. Her Christian friend went on to explain to Sarah that she (like the rest of us) was a sinner - not only because she had done things that were wrong, but also because Sarah was born with sin inside of her. The friend explained that God, in his love, sent his Son to pay the penalty for the sin in Sarah’s life, and that if Sarah put her faith in Jesus Christ, then she would be accepted by God.
When Sarah made this commitment, and accepted God’s free gift of grace that is given through Jesus, that was the moment of her acceptance by God.
Here's the key difference:
- What Sarah had done in her life was irrelevant.
- What mattered was what Jesus had done.
Death before life
It is true that when God invites us into relationship with him, he offers this to us no matter where we are in life. Still, it is vital that we recognise this is simply the starting point of conversion, rather than the final destination of being a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God wants us to change, and he will work in all Christians to change them & shape them to be more like Jesus. However, the process of being a new creation gets ugly, before it gets beautiful. In Romans 6, Paul writes,
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Accepted through Christ
Having an encounter with God is certainly the starting point, but it isn’t enough. The Pharisees of the New Testament had countless encounters with Jesus, who had come to them as God-incarnate - yet they still refused to accept that he was the Messiah. God isn’t interested in random encounters. His desire is that we would be in an eternal relationship with him – one that is only possible when he accepts us because of who we are in Christ, not who we are in ourselves.