The virtue of self-acceptance
The childhood sense of sin and unhealthy fear of God may pervade until our adult life, even until the end of our life. In my case, it took theological studies to rid me of much of the neurosis and place me in a healthier sphere of self-acceptance.
But outside of this, there is still a place for self-acceptance when, after we have done our best, we still find ourselves incomplete, limited, unfulfilled. One influential preacher says he visits France often.
He likes to go to the Louvre. There he views magnificent works of art mutilated by accident or defaced time. Venus de Milo has her arms missing; the Winged Victory is headless; the Boticelli murals have some blob of plaster where the paint has disintegrated. But as this preacher points out, they stand out for all their mutilation, unsurpassed in their beauty. Then he makes the connection: “For all our flaws, having tried to be saints, our lives are permeated with eternal quality. The Good News of Christianity is, however defaced the image of God is in man, no power on earth can ultimately deface it.”
As a pastor for more than 50 years, I have noted that my favorite preacher in New York City has said, “Somehow we’ve got this idea that we’ve all got to be perfect. I love the stickers on the cars that say “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.”
Let us move on to the other answer to the human dilemma: the force of God’s acceptance of you and me results in our humble acceptance of ourselves.
There is an incident in the gospels which to me is a parable of self-acceptance. And the acceptance of us by God. A Canaanite woman (which means not Jewish) goes to Jesus appealing for mercy and asking that Jesus heal her daughter of demon-possession.
Jesus responds to her request with a strange proverb common in those days: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Translation: It would be wrong for Jesus to heal a non-Jew; his healing power was reserved for God’s people only. The word of Jesus to the woman makes him seem unkind, unsympathetic, ungenerous. But when read in Aramaic, which was the language in Jesus time, Jesus spoke the words with love and tenderness.
But the whole point is this; the woman does not take issue with Jesus. She accepts the meaning of the proverb, and says, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table.” Translation: “Yes, Lord, dogs are what we are; but we can avail ourselves of god’s smallest mercy, can’t we?” O course the end of the story tells us that the woman’s daughter is healed by Jesus.*TO BE CONTINUED
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