For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12
Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone needs to be loved. Sadly, not everyone feels they are loved. We hear so many stories these days about kids who have run away from home because they feel unloved or unwanted. We hear even more stories about people who, for one reason or another have fallen out of grace and become shunned for something they’ve done. The sad truth is, the world is filled with people who perceive themselves to be misfits, outcasts and undesirable. “If only I were good enough, someone would love me.”
Have you ever tried to convince someone who fits the above description that they truly are loved? Have you ever been faced with the difficulty of giving someone the assurance of God’s love? It isn’t as simple as it sounds. People who are convinced they are undesirable have built up walls surrounding them that are nearly impenetrable. Breaking down the barrier of doubt and low self- esteem is a dauntless task. Change is needed; transformation must take place for both, the unloved and the community that shuns them.
Several times in my reading this morning I have come across a commonly used sentence that always seems to give me trouble. “God loves you just the way you are.” This sentence gives the connotation that, even though I am not good enough for people, I am good enough for God. Now on the surface of this statement there is an element of truth, God does love us unconditionally. But simply telling someone that God loves them just as they are does not tell the whole story.
Ever since Adam and Eve bit the forbidden fruit, a barrier has existed between God and humanity. Sin is the great separation, the deeply driven wedge breaking the relationship between God and people. There can be no mistake, God hates sin and we are sinners. God does not love us just the way we are. God does not love us as sinners continually turning away from the relationship he established with creation in the beginning. This is a difficult message to hear and even more difficult to accept.
Certainly, God loves us. After all, we are people created by his hand in his image and likeness. But God does not love us just as we are. God does not love our sinful human condition. In order for God to love us just the way we are, change is needed. Transformation must take place. The deeply driven wedge between God and people must be removed and the wounds of sin healed forever. This is why God sent his Son into the world.
One of the aspects of the Lutheran Church I cling to is our emphasis and focus on the cross of Christ. Even as Jesus was fully human, subject to the same temptation, hunger, and pain we feel, he did not surrender unto sin. Jesus accomplished what humans cannot; he remained obedient to God even unto death. God loved Jesus just as he was; sinless, blameless, perfect.
As we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, change occurs, transformation takes place. God receives us into the one true body of Christ Jesus and forgives us all our sin. God sanctifies us with his Holy Spirit, claims us as his own and gives us the assurance of his love forever. It is in this truth that humans can rightfully say, “God loves us just the way we are.”
In Christ, God’s people are no longer lost, no longer broken. We sinners who are washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and redeemed by the blood of Christ Jesus are made a new creation. Through this gift of grace through faith, those who believe and are baptized can honestly say God loves us just the way we are.