Saturday, November 1, 2014

He Honors You

"Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don't have God's love within gladly honor each other, but you don't care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God."  John 5:41-42, 44

Do you ever feel the need to be validated? I heard a disturbing report on the news about girls posting selfies on social media sites soley for the purpose of becoming a member of the "100 Likes Club". If you haven't heard of this, the idea is to post a selfie that is good enough to get at least 100 Likes from others. Achieving this goal is the goal, and any picture that doesn't meet this standard should probably be deleted.

Wow. That's harsh. And it's so wrong. But sadly, it's happening. And I'm not surprised because we all have this need for validation. Whether it's a photo of ourselves, a job we have, a talent, or even in following God, we often wonder if we "measure up".  Am I beautiful enough? Am I far enough along in my career? Am I as good at_____as I think I am? Am I good enough? Do I matter? What do others think of me?

We've all heard the truthful words, "True beauty comes from the inside." But even in that we are often critical of ourselves, and trying to be beautiful on the inside can be just as damaging to our self-esteem as never thinking we are pretty enough. And then there's our "spiritual scale" to consider. Am I a good enough Christian? Am I doing enough for others? Am I doing enough for God? Is He proud of me or disappointed in me? And our concerns in how good of a job we're doing don't only stem from our own insecurities but also from others who "mean well".  Their motive may be to whip us into spiritual shape, but their critical comments, subtle glances, and guilt trips just make us feel worse.

Jesus was familiar with this need for validation, and it is a human need. I'm not trying to say we don't need to know how beautiful we are, how good we are at things, or how God sees us. We do need to know, and knowing can be empowering, but the question is, who are we trying to please, and how? How much is enough? What scale am I using, what scale are others using, and what scale is God using? We can find a clue in what Jesus said to a man who needed forgiveness and healing, and in what He said to some "weighty" bystanders.

The house where [Jesus] was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God's word to them, four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn't bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "My child, your sins are forgiven."

But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, "What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!"

Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, "Why do you question this in your hearts?" (Mark 2:2-9)

Jesus doesn't get validation from these religious men, and as the new rabbi in town, this would have been a big deal. But it doesn't bother Him, and He turns the tables by questioning their critical thoughts instead. It would be like posting a selfie, having complete confidence it's a nice photo of yourself, but when you don't get as many "likes" as you think you should, you don't remove the picture, but rather you post a comment for all your silent disapprovers: Why didn't you like this? What's wrong with how I look in this photo? Why don't you approve? And you're not looking for them to be honest with you about how you look one way or the other, you're asking them to be honest with themselves: What is your scale of beauty, and is it the right scale?

The truth is, any photo I post of myself is worth posting because I'm a human being and I have value and worth. And the paralyzed man Jesus healed that day was a candidate for forgiveness for the same reason. Notice he didn't ask for forgiveness, and neither did his friends ask for it on his behalf. He was forgiven because God chose to forgive him, just as He does with everyone. I don't think the religious teachers were questioning Jesus' ability to forgive sins because of who He was as much as they were questioning this man's worthiness of being forgiven--even by God. Jesus could be lenient about their belief in His authority and questioning if He was truly the Messiah. But when it came to doubting the belief that God would forgive this man, or anyone, He called them on it: "Why do you question this in your hearts?"

They were questioning their own level of worthiness; that's why they were working so hard to be "religious".  They were following the Law, but they knew they weren't perfect. They weren't living under grace, but law, and that was bad news. They tried to appear perfect and were quick to point out the flaws of others (or make them up in Jesus' case), but deep in their hearts they knew the truth.

I think our need for validation stems from the same thing. We want to be good at something. And if we can't be as successful as we want to be, we want to at least look good. But our self-scrutiny will always fail us, and others will fail to give us the validation we need to overcome our own thoughts. Even one critical word can cancel out a hundred "likes", "well done" praises, and "you are so good at ____" compliments.

How do we get the validation we need? How do we overcome the disapproval or silence of others? How do we cope with failure? It has slapped us in the face before, and it will undoubtedly come again. Even if we try our best. Even if we choose to think positively and not give up hope. Even if we are determined and as flawless as Jesus was. He certainly had His critics, and He paid dearly for their opinion of Him.

So what do we do? We do what the paralyzed man did: Jesus said..."Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!" And immediately as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. (Luke 5:24-25)  He believed in what Jesus had done for him. He believed in who Jesus said he was: healed, forgiven, and set free. There was nothing holding him to that mat of disability, and he got up and walked out of there, thanking God for it all. He didn't wait for someone else to say, "You can do it", "You should do it", or "We're behind you all the way".  Doing what Jesus said he could do was enough.

What has Jesus said you can do: with His forgiveness, with His help, with the ways He has gifted you? Do you believe Him? Is His validation enough? You already have it. You are highly valued by Him. You are deeply loved. You are beautiful in His eyes. He honors you. You have everything you need to be who He says you can be. Just believe it, and no matter how many others don't agree, or are too self-absorbed to give you encouragement, or how critical you are of yourself, His word to you is enough.

"Those who listen [to Me] will live." John 5:25

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.  All rights reserved.

All photos are copyrighted © by the beautiful young women who took them. All rights reserved.