When Ned shared with his Christian community that he had struggled with a specific sexual sin since young adulthood, they rallied around to support him in every way they could, including pointing him to Regeneration. As we sat together and talked, it was obvious he longed to please God, and he was highly motivated to do what he needed to in order to find freedom.
I liked his zeal. But not what was fueling it.
However you struggle in life, it’s good to be motivated to change. It’s good to want to grow, to heal, to become more whole, to become more like Jesus.
But just because a motivation can move you doesn’t mean you should let it.
Because some motivations do more harm than good.
“It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.” Romans 2:4
Underneath his love for God and zeal to change, Ned was motivated by a subtle but strong undercurrent of self-hatred. It prodded him to change not because he had value, but in order to have value. Like many of us, Ned felt like unless he changed, he would always be less than— less significant, less lovable, less worthwhile, less of a man…just less. So the most obvious thing to do was to change.
Ned’s sexual sin was hurting him. It was hurting others, too. But I think God’s greater priority for Ned was not to remove his sexual sin but to remove his self-hatred.
The irony is that self-hatred can’t lead us to the kind of transformation we need and want. In order to change, we need self-acceptance.
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And here’s the rub, because self-acceptance can feel counter-intuitive. Something within argues, “If I accept myself as I am, with all my sins and faults, then what’s my motivation to change?”
That’s mistaking self-acceptance with sin-acceptance.
Self-acceptance doesn’t mean we embrace our sins as a necessary or immutable part of ourselves. Self-acceptance simply means that in the light of the cross, we are free to stop hiding like our first father and mother did in the Garden. We need not cower in fear and shame that God is going to smite us for the cancerous evil we find alive in ourselves.
He does not shrug off our sinful condition with “They’re only human,” any more than He sends us away in disgust. In reality, God’s searching eyes see more sin in us than we thought possible.
He is searching not as an angry accuser but as a good physician wanting to save us.
Self-acceptance means in His light we agree with what He sees. We acknowledge the good, the beautiful, the evil, and the ugly. We cease from our own self-hatred and striving. As He approaches, we remain still. We let Him look upon all that we’ve become and love us as we are. We receive the healing love of Christ where we need Him the most. And we take His hand and follow, beloved.
This is the pathway to change.
If we can help, we’d be honored.
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