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It’s okay not to be okay

Rev. John Kasper dispels the myth that God won’t love us or be there for us until we get our lives in order and do all the right things.

JOHN KASPER
Superintendent, Central Bay District

An ugly myth persists about our ability to have a dynamic relationship with God. In essence, it says this: Before you can conceive of having any kind of relationship with God, you must first get your act together and do all the right things or God won’t have anything to do with you.

Like all myths, this one is founded on aspects of truth, but the truths have been distorted. The truths in this case are that God is holy and perfect, that we were made to live in relationship with God, and that sin and disobedience cause separation from God. The distortion is that because of sin, God has turned his back on us . . . at least until we get it right.

But in the Bible we find a very different God. At the very first sin, God is there in the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve. Yes, there are consequences of sin, not the least of which is death. Still, at the very moment sin entered the world and altered the way we can know God, God set in motion the plan that would enable us to be reconciled with and restored to God. In fact, a closer look at the consequences that God gives to Adam, Eve, and the serpent shows how they are actually consequences of grace necessary for the reconciliation and restoration of that holy relationship to take place.

Throughout the Bible, God continually reaches out to the people he created so that they might be with God and God with them. God even established a people to be the ones to help the whole world understand what living in relationship with God is like. God gave commandments, standards, and rules not to be a curse for death but as a guide for living in relationship with God and with each other.

Sadly, instead of being a guide toward grace and freedom, it became a burden of continually trying to “get it right.” Ironically, more rules and expectations were created with the intent to help the people keep God’s laws and standards. Instead of fostering a relationship with God, however, they created a religion to God; instead of understanding the purpose of and motive for relating to God and others, people were always concerned whether they had done enough—or done it right—for God to be pleased. Even their sacrifices and celebrations had become something they needed to do, rather than a time to praise, worship, and focus on God.

Do you know how hard it is to really know someone when you spend all your time trying to get it right? I was a wreck on my first date with Debbi, and I already knew her. I was so focused on making a good impression, doing all the date things right. I must have looked like a bear cub with an armful of shovels. I so wanted Debbi to be impressed. Frankly, I’m surprised she was willing to go out with me a second time. I felt like I would only be able to develop a relationship with Debbi if I did everything right. But Debbi didn’t expect me to do anything; she expected to be with me. It was in the being that our relationship began to grow.

God, I believe, wants us to have the most fulfilling life possible while on this earth, and the standards that we have been given are designed to do just that. But God doesn’t expect us to do anything to have a relationship with us. Nothing we do would measure up anyway. But God does want to be with us. Jesus showed us that God accepts us for who we are, not what we do. It is in the being in relationship that the Holy Spirit works in us to make us more like Jesus so that our relationship with God continues to grow.

So often Jesus was ridiculed for eating with so-called sinners. In Jesus’ day, having dinner with someone meant you were putting them on the same level as you. Having someone the host respected accept an invitation was more than an honor; it meant the guest considered the host an equal in position and class. Think about that. Jesus came to be with us, right where we are. Jesus did not expect us to be where he is. Those who ridiculed Jesus thought it below him to mingle with people of such standings. But Jesus replied that those are the very ones he, and therefore God, wants to mingle with. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. … I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13, CEB).

It doesn’t matter what we’ve done or haven’t done. God wants every part of us—our hurts, our pain, our suffering, our rights and our wrongs. God wants to share in our celebrations, but he also wants to walk with us through our difficulties. God loves us and wants us for who we are, not what we do or what we don’t do. In fact, it’s okay not to be okay.

Now that can be scary because it means we are vulnerable; it means we are exposed; it means God will know all about us. But isn’t that what we really need and want? As much as we want to know God, we also long to be known. In our heart of hearts, we need to know that God loves us no matter what. And God does.

And while we are accepted just as we are, God is unwilling to let us stay that way. In fact, it is in our restored relationship with God that we are changed. Paul says it this way: “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, CEB). It is our relationship with God that enables us to live rightly with God and with one another. In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God stepped into our world to show us how much we mean to God, and Jesus did everything necessary so that we could have a dynamic relationship with God. God wants to make a difference in us.

God also wants to make a difference through us. The church is supposed to be the body of Christ Jesus on earth, to represent God to all. At times the church gives the impression that a person needs to act a certain way, dress a certain way, change their life or lifestyle, or get rid of certain behaviors or habits before we let them become a part of us. In so doing, we are telling them that it’s not okay to not be okay, that God’s favor must be earned somehow.

If the church has ever made someone feel unworthy, like they didn’t measure up, as if God would not want to have a relationship with them, intentionally or not, it was out of line. And I beg their forgiveness on behalf of the church.

It is our mission as a church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We should be helping people know and begin a relationship with God. We should be living out our faith. We should be sharing God’s love.

I call on all who are in relationship with God through Jesus’ restoring life, death, and resurrection to represent God so that all people will know that God loves them right where they are, that God loves too much to let anything keep them apart, and that God will work in their lives to cause that relationship to keep on growing. This we must do to the best of our ability, God helping us!

Now it’s up to you. Will you get real with God? You can, you know. It’s okay not to be okay. God accepts you as you are. As your relationship with God develops, you will find that you are becoming a new creation; the old you—the you that you were so sure would keep you from having a dynamic relationship with God—is gone and a new you has come to take its place. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Look, now is the right time! Look, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2b, CEB).

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