“God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way.”
Deep inside each of us is the need to know that we are loved and to feel accepted for who we are. Most would agree with this statement, and yet many of us carry the scars from when we have not been loved as we hoped, let alone accepted as we would like.
People criticise, or present views that are different from ours and we feel hurt. In these moments it is easy to feel inadequate and unwanted. Some of us know what it is like to feel singled out, even left out, because others perceive us to be different from them, in the way we speak, or look, or because of the way we think or the way we believe the world to be. Our culture has much to say about the acceptance of those who are different, and yet our experiences may be very different.
For a book written so long ago, the Bible presents all humans in a remarkably relevant and refreshing way, responding to the realities of human experience and dealing with the deep longings within us. Right from its first page, it reveals that all of us, male and female, are made in God’s own image. This means that we are not only perfectly made, but that we are capable of being loved and of loving others because God made us this way. But the Bible also reveals that every human who has ever lived is equally flawed, and damaged by our desire to do things our own way, often regardless of the impact we have on others and the harm we do to ourselves.
Free to choose right over wrong, good over evil, we live our lives a messy mixture of good and bad decisions. Our relationships, strengthened and broken by our capacity to be great and terrible in the same ten minutes. We demand the highest standards of others whilst at the same time convincing ourselves that our worst wasn’t all that bad. No wonder this world is in the mess it is. But, can there be a solution?
The first surprise of the Bible is not that humans have the capacity to fail, but that the God who made us, loves each one of us; as we are, and how he created us to be. This understanding changes us because we give up trying to win the approval of others when we know that we are accepted by God.
The second surprise comes when we give up trying to direct our own lives and determine our own destinies. The Bible calls it repentance, a change of direction. Turning from self-directed, self-centered pasts, to living lives focused on loving God and loving others. Repentance, now, releases us to a new kind of life. Jesus called it being born again. The old ‘us’ is left in the past, the wrong choices we have made are left behind, forgiven, and forgotten, and we start life again. We turn from what we were to who we were made to be, and face a new and better future. But if we are different, how should we then live?
The greatest surprise from the Bible comes when we realise that it is God’s plan that we should become like him. As we spend time in Jesus’ company, God begins his greatest act of re-creation. The transformation of our own lives. We realise that who we were before we encountered the one who made us, was only a shadow of who he really created us to be. His desire is not that we should stay the same as we were, but that we should, in time, become like him. We will become like Jesus, we will be re-made perfect, like God.
The Bible recounts what happened to the people who met Jesus and those whose lives were touched by his spirit. Ordinary men and women, old and young, from every race and culture, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’, were changed. And this transformation has continued throughout history and still happens today. I know many ordinary, and extraordinary people, who will tell you how their lives changed, and how their changed lives have changed the lives of others. Because when we allow God to change our lives, he makes us more like him, more like Jesus.
He gives us the gift of healing, not only to be healed ourselves but to bring that healing to other people. He gives us hearts capable of loving others, even those who struggle to love themselves. He gives us the desire and the capacity to grow in goodness and purity and to be made perfect, just as he is perfect. And he assures us that not even death will have a hold on us, as it could not hold on to Jesus. His promise is that to those who accept him, to those who are ‘in Christ’, we will become immortal like him, like God.
God certainly loves you, just the way you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way. His plan for you is to be all that he created you to be and to transform you, a little more each day, into the likeness of his son. You were made perfect and will be made perfect. All you need to do is turn around.
My life changed when at 17 years old, I changed the direction I was going in and decided to follow Jesus. I am not perfect yet, far from it, but I know that I am loved and accepted by God. If you would like to know this for yourself, then please find a Bible and start reading or get in touch. We would love to hear from you.