But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8
The desire to be accepted by others is a common, if not universal one. Do you know anyone who doesn’t seek to be accepted? I don’t think I do. Growing up, I felt that I had to perform in order to be accepted. When I was good at something, it seemed that others would pay attention; that they would like and accept me. Experience quickly taught me that good performance equaled acceptance while poor performance often meant some kind of rejection. So, driven by the desire to be accepted, I worked to achieve. Still, I was nagged by the suspicion that whatever I did would not be enough.
Unfortunately, I also learned this same lesson in church and in a variety of ways. For example, as a kid, I was part of our church’s Scripture memory program. Every week, we learned a new Scripture verse and on Sunday morning we would recite the verse for a listener. If we learned the verse, we’d get a gold star in our Scripture memory booklet. Another star was added next to our name on the bulletin board for everyone to see! Of course, most of us forgot the verses within a few days, but that wasn’t the point! Getting your gold star and more gold stars than the other kids was the point! I actually remember being happy when one of my friends was absent because it meant I could get ahead in the race for most gold stars!
The lesson was unintentionally taught, but so much of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus became reduced to performance. I learned lessons like Jesus loves good people; people who follow all of the rules; people who get more gold stars than anyone else. This has been a hard lesson to unlearn.
Fortunately, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned more and more about the real Jesus. While obedience to Christ is important, I’ve learned that Jesus’ love for me and His acceptance of me does not depend on whether I’m always obedient. I’ve found Jesus is far more loving and accepting than I had ever imagined. I am convinced that His love for us never fades nor falters. He accepts us without conditions of performance. He always treats us the same way. Yes, He loves us on our best day. And, He loves us just as much on our worst day. The ultimate proof of his acceptance was his willingness to die for us — “while we were still sinners.”
Today, if you feel like much of your acceptance in life is based on performance, take a few moments to be comforted by the truth that there is One whose love is not based on what you do or don’t do. Jesus loves you for who you are at this very moment. This is perhaps one of life’s most important lessons to learn!
1. Does knowing Jesus’ love and acceptance isn’t based on performance cause you to want to be more or less obedient in following Him? Why?
2. In what areas of life (or to which people in your life) do you give or withhold acceptance based on performance? What can you do to change?
Romans 8:31-39; John 8:1-11; Matthew 9:9-13; 11:28-30