This week we start looking at self-acceptance and what the Bible says. This is a wonderful and potentially dangerous discussion. It is a wonderful discussion because there is so much about faith that we cannot embrace until we get to the point of accepting ourselves. But that acceptance can drag us into a very dark and potentially difficult path to narcissism. Often this is the direction pop-theology and pop-psychology drags us down.
So when looking into self-acceptance we need to have some parameters. For Christians those are set out biblically. First that we are not alone! God did not create us to be individuals living lives individually. Rather, God calls us to be part of a community. So any aspect of our individuality is always connected to the greater community. Some would say that this is the essence of the Book of Leviticus and one of the passages that we will look at this Sunday, Leviticus 19:18, You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Second, we are not God. That should be an easy thing not to do. But we are prone to doing it all the time, as if our understanding of perfection was the same as Gods. It reminds me of a friend, when she was in High School her parents were all over her case because she could not get good grades. No matter how hard she tried. This brought her to scary depths of depression because she would dwell on a false image of what was perfect. Later, when she was in college, which is where I met her, she found her place in the musical theater program where her talent was revered and envied.
As people, not being God, we cannot be expected to be perfect in all things, in fact when we really think about it there is no real perfection there is only the perception of perfection. Think about it, how often do we to criticize our own imperfections only to find out later that our imperfections are the things that make up the basis of who we are and therefore should be celebrated.
Third, we are worthy. In the passage from the morning this week, Jesus highlights the fact that the prostitutes and tax collectors have the ability to be saved. Thus, you to are worthy.
Lastly, one must choose a relationship with God to be able to fully accept themselves. Like the first parameter being unable to separate from the communities, we cannot really separate ourselves from God. Accepting that God has had an intimate role in our lives allows us to understand who we are as his people.
Again, to understand ourselves we also start with an understanding that we are more than what we see. We see that in the second verse for this week Psalm 139:13-15:
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
This is the “happy” part of the psalm. When looking at the whole psalm we see that it is one of the Laments. The writer is crying to God because there is something imperfect, even wicked, and he is seeking God to make him whole once again. While this passage does not answer how we accept ourselves, it holds up a way that we might find that acceptance. Along with the whole psalm we see that the path to understanding God comes from recognizing and admitting who we are and asking for help where help is needed and acceptance for the areas which need to be embraced.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen