Friday, October 26, 2012

Love Yourself: Advice for Christians (Part Two)

If you missed part one, you can read it here.

I accepted Jesus into my heart fourteen years ago this month. I've spent fourteen years in this religion that is more like a relationship; fourteen years deeper into the heart of God.

A lot has changed since then. For one, I have learned how to articulate my beliefs. I finally nailed down my views on Calvinism and Arminianism (closer to the latter), soteriology (ransom theory with a bit of Christus Victor), and predestination ("ordained" free will... kinda). In addition, I've had my fair share of heartaches, victories, doubts, and beliefs. I watched the breaking apart of my parents' marriage. I lost a piece of my innocence. I lost my grandpa. I faced my fears. I began counseling.

Sometimes I characterize my growing up as "overchurched," in the sense that attending a Christian school and being involved in every activity at church often made me jaded to Christ. I literally did not want to hear it anymore. Unfortunately, living with a continual and typically repetitive or even simplistic "dose" of Jesus every time you turn around can be unhealthy. We may forget the most important things about Christianity.

Case in point: We all know the words of John 3:16 by heart, but most of us really do not believe them in our hearts. John 3:16 begins with these two words: God loves. Do we believe that he loves? Does our acknowledgement of his love change the way we live, interact, or think?

In my last post, I offered the idea that the advice "Love Yourself" can actually be beneficial for Christians. When I look at 1 Corinthians 13 and see that love is patient, love is kind, it only makes sense that I would treat myself, just as I treat others, in those ways.

To continue with 1 Corinthians 13, verse five says that love "keeps no record of being wronged." When it comes to loving yourself, I think this phrase goes both ways. Love does not make a list of every time someone sins against you. But also, love does not make a list of every time you sin. Yourself. Love is not about keeping the law or maintaining rules and regulations. Love is about living a spirit-filled life. Romans 8:3-4 reads:
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
The thing is, under the new covenant (basically, the New Testament), we do not live by the rules of the Law (the old covenant, the Old Testament Law). And when we meet Christ and accept his free gift of salvation, we no longer live in slavery to the sinful nature. As born-again Christians, we live by the Spirit. God declared an end to both the law's control and sin's control over us.

Now, take this theology and apply it to keeping no record of wrongs. If Romans 8:1 is correct, if there really is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus, then of course God does not make a list of our sins and judge us by it. He loves us as his children, and I believe he isn't about to bring up our past sins to make us feel guilty or to place blame or shame on us. That's not the way love works.

Similarly, when we talk about loving ourselves, it is important that we acknowledge that we sin, that we are aware that we are not yet who we want to be in Christ, but that we not become obsessed with feeling bad about our sins or walking around with this subjective feeling of "condemnation" for doing something wrong. Has God forgiven you? Has God already forgiven you? The answer is a firm and resounding Yes. Don't keep holding to that bad feeling after you sin. 1 John 1:9 says, "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." So confess it and move on.

Keeping a record of your wrongs and bringing them up again every single time someone mentions forgiveness and grace is a pretty depressing way to live. I know. I've been there. The thing is, God doesn't care about all of that. He loves you regardless. He loves you for who he made you to be. He loves you because His son's blood covers all of your sins. Why hold on to something Jesus has already washed off of you? Why grasp the chains of sin and guilt that Jesus already broke? Tenth Avenue North sings:
Your blood bought and makes us children
Children drop your chains and sing
Friends, a healthy realization that, as Christians, we still sin, is good. Yes, Christians still sin. The only difference is that sin does not drive us from God in a desperation, it actually ends up drawing us closer to God. When we sin now, as believers, we can come to God and kneel before him and confess, "God, I'm sorry for my sin. I repent." And you know what? God says, "What sin? I don't know what you're talking about." Come up here and sit on my lap.

Hebrews chapter four says that since Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet he did not sin, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). God is not angry at us! He wants to give us mercy and grace. He wants to help us in our weaknesses. He beckons us towards him. What a beautiful realization that, even though it seems impossible, if we give God our pain and mistakes and heartaches, if we reveal to him our brokenness and sins, he will redeem us. He will forgive us. In fact, he already has. Come to the water, my friend.

God keeps no record of wrongs. Love keeps no record of wrongs (your own or someone else's). To love yourself means to not beat yourself up over what has happened in the past. To love yourself means to confess it and move on, to accept God's graciousness and forgiveness and be loved. To let yourself be loved.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says that love always hopes. Check back for part three where I will discuss how hope applies to loving yourself.

What I'm Listening To:
Hallelujah, The Struggle, and Shadows - Tenth Avenue North
Doubts or Disbelief - Chasen

No comments:

Post a Comment