“What really matters is what God says about us. What would it matter if a thousand people bowed before us and praised our name if God condemned us? What would it matter if ten thousand people reviled and cursed us if God accepted us and loved us? We have already been accepted by the one whose acceptance is all that really matters.”
— James Bryan Smith, Embracing the Love of God
I find myself dependent on the approval and acceptance of others, from my friends and co-workers to my wonderful wife, Sharon. I may say outwardly that I don’t care what others think, but my thoughts and actions say otherwise. Approval addiction is what some would call it. I’m not sure where this comes from… early childhood probably.
But what James Bryan Smith is getting at in this passage and in this book is that knowing — really knowing — that God loves you and me and accepts you and me, JUST AS WE ARE (before we shape up, improve, get our act together, kick our bad habits, or clean up)… this love and acceptance can (and should) profoundly transform us. When it really gets deep down inside us that you and I are truly God’s “beloved” as His Word says over and over, we are changed. This is all that matters.
We then can accept ourselves as we are. We no longer are perfectionists, aggravated and disturbed by our weaknesses and flaws, our shortcomings and warts, and our repeated failures. We are loved and accepted. That’s all that really matters. We all want to be loved and accepted by others, but we are no longer ruled by it. Whatever we lack from others, God gladly, freely, and overwhelmingly makes up for. His love is all that really matters.
Knowing that God loves and accepts us, as we are right now, allows us to love and accept others, with all their flaws and failures. We don’t have to accept their behavior, but God’s love for us allows us to accept and love others as they are right now. We are able to give grace to others because we have received it so abundantly.
Lastly, God’s nearly unbelievable acceptance produces in me and in you an unexplainable desire for holiness. It is not a matter of being more pious, but a desire for more of God. The former leads to self-righteousness; the latter to His righteousness. This wonderful love, acceptance, and grace does not lead to loose living as a license to sin, but it is a springboard to the life of love and freedom that God desires for each one of us.
It is abundant life. It is eternal living.
His love and acceptance… all that really matters.