I struggle deeply with self-acceptance. I’ve struggled with it all my life.
You often hear people say about how you have to learn to accept yourself. There is a lot of truth in that. It isn’t just true for Christians. It’s true for everyone.
It’s true for me.
It’s important to remember that self-acceptance means a very different thing to people who are without Christ and those who have chosen to have him as their Lord and Saviour.
To talk about accepting yourself in the world means becoming comfortable with who and how you are. It can mean being comfortable with your appearance. However, it can also mean being comfortable with how you are today, including your particular personality traits, whether they be positive or negative, and with the poor choices you have made for yourself.
This doesn’t agree with the Bible’s strong emphasis on the moral corruption of humanity, so that we can all say that the human heart is,
“[m]ore deceitful than all else. And is desperately sick…” (Jer. 17:9);
and that we are all,
…sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Ps 51:5).
Even at our very best, these words remain true:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags… (Isa 64:6.)
It’s even easy for Christians to be tempted to ignore these realities and focus instead on trite pop-psychology slogans of the world and pretend that they represent the message of Christianity.
The Christian message starts with the fundamental premise that we aren’t good enough, and that we need a Saviour.
And if these things are true, then what is the basis for self-acceptance? How can you accept yourself when you know your own wrong desires, weaknesses, and failures better than anyone else?
Society tells you that you need to find acceptance within yourself. You can’t. All that you will ever find within yourself are delusional self-justifications of your faults. Even more fundamentally, how can you see the inherent value of another human being, if they are just like you?
Here is the key. Acceptance can ultimately only be found outside of yourself.
Christianity tells us that self-acceptance starts with the truth that no matter how flawed we may be, we are God’s creation. And we are desperately, deploy loved by God.
Christianity tells us that God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to this world to be the representative and substitute of member of the human race. He lived the perfect life that we can’t live. He died the perfect death so that all sin could be forgiven and then he rose triumphantly from the grave so that death itself should die.
We could have done none of these things for ourselves, yet Jesus did them for us. That’s why he is worthy:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev 5:12.)
Jesus is acclaimed as worthy for those who were not worthy, so that they might be acclaimed as worthy in him.
Because Jesus was accepted, we are accepted. We are accepted in him. That’s why the Bible tells us that we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6.)
Trying to find true self-acceptance without Jesus leads to a life of frustration and despair. We can only find and experience acceptance in relation to Jesus.
The only way that you will ever truly accept yourself and be at peace is to really know that God has accepted you through Christ. Only when you ground the very core of your identity in Jesus and in his mighty act of salvation at the Cross, will you be safe from the doubt and despair that will come if you look inward.
As I said this is something that I’ve struggled with all my life. But I hope you don’t think any less of me! It isn’t a fruitless struggle. It is a victorious struggle, as the Spirit of God teaches me to ground my identity in Christ, and through him, to grow into an eternally expanding understanding of just how much God loves me
My acceptance of this reality is shown in the way I choose to live, to see myself, and relate to others. Through Jesus, I am accepted, so I can accept myself. If Jesus has forgiven me, then so can I. If Jesus has accepted others, then so can I.
In fact, I think I’m quite acceptable.
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.
Feature image: Photo by Maria Lupan, Unsplash