It’s God’s gift from start to finish! Ephesians 2:8 (MSG)
“Words create words,” the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel would tell his children. Which is helpful (and convicting) when we’re thinking about the words we choose. It’s challenging, even heartbreaking when we think of some of the words spoken that have been over our lives. How do we reject words that have harmed us? That may have been said with good intentions, but have left scars none the less?
Time to reject some words, friends.
“God loves you in spite of yourself.”
For years I clapped and praised and shouted hallelujah to this phrase! A preacher in our old church used to say that when he became a Christian, he realized that his whole life was an offense to God. He finished his story with: “God doesn’t love you because of who you are; he loves you because of whose you are.”
How you see God directly influences how you see yourself. For many years, I viewed my sins and torments and failures so seriously, so negatively, I hated myself for some of them. So much so, that as a child and teenager, I responded to salvation calls like I wanted to be picked first for the team. “Pick me, Jesus, please pick me.” In adult life, it played out through endless people pleasing to the detriment of my health and sense of self.
Slowly, year by year, failure by failure, I've realized that Paul believed it when he said: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Roman 5:8).
The way we’ve used the word “in-spite” has made me feel undeserving of the grace of God. And even though I may be underserving, we’ve made that the point. We’ve bolded that part, rather than the love and grace part. It creates a false sense of humility. The kind that doesn’t build us up to love and good works, but to performance and striving and working for worthiness. An earning grace kind of faith.
How we see God directly influences how we see others. If there’s a chance I’m not worthy, there’s a chance you’re not, too. It becomes a race for worthiness, who's in and who's out, who’s better and who’s not good enough, who wins and who loses. It fosters, if not creates, self-righteousness, a sense that others can be left behind because, after all, we don’t deserve it, and only a few will ever make it, and goodness, I hope I do.
Our worthiness has never been the point. Ever.
God loves us in the spaces where we can’t possibly love or accept ourselves. THAT is the beauty and miracle of grace. God shocks and stuns us into love by scooping the entirety of our lives into himself. It’s that old cliché: God doesn’t love us IF we change, he loves us so we can change. All true and good transformation begins with love and grace.
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” Eph 2:8 (MSG).
His love and grace is a gift. Not in spite of who you are and what you’ve done, but because of what you’ve done (for healing and restoration) and because of who you are: a child of God.
You are not an offense to God. You are his joy.
Drop the words “in-spite” and “underserved” and humbly yet boldly accept the gift that’s always been yours.
Go to Part 3 – Saying Yes »
Written by Lizzy Milani