Jackie is a young woman who lived in the inner city
projects for many years. She had lived a hard life as a drug addict who sometimes sold her body to men to sustain her habit. Some might have blamed it on her upbringing, which had been anything but normal. From the time she was a child, the men in her life had abused and exploited her. Now, as an adult, she trusted no man. None. She was callused. Her language was unusually foul for a woman and she despised men.
Don was working in her community when one day he met Jackie, smiled and said hello. Jackie rudely frowned at him and immediately turned away. The next day Don returned to her community and again smiled and said hello. Again she turned away. However, Don was persistent. Day after day he came and reached out to her neighbors through various means intended to help and each day he smiled and spoke to Jackie.
After a while, she actually began to think that maybe – just maybe, this guy was sincerely nice. Then the thought would rush into her mind, “But why would he have any interest in me? What does he want?” However, despite her skepticism and suspicions about his kindness, she began to respond to him a little more each day, until finally she was having conversations with Don.
As weeks turned into months, Jackie began to realize something. Don was interested in her as a lady. Not in an inappropriate way either. He seemed to genuinely care for her in the way that a man loves a woman with a purity that she had only dreamed about until now. Could it be that what she was feeling might be true? Did he really love her, as it seemed?
As the thought of being the recipient of this wonderful man’s love took root in her mind, Jackie began to change. First, she found that she didn’t want to use foul language when she talked to him anymore. She began to anticipate his visits each day and would get dressed up, put on her makeup and even wear perfume. She wanted to be pleasing to him. He had never criticized her looks or behavior. To the contrary, from the beginning Don had accepted her just like she was. That itself motivated her to want to change.
As Don shared his love with Jackie day after day, she bloomed. Little by little, her life was transformed from a hardened, drug-addicted prostitute into a real lady. The change didn’t happen because Don pointed out all her faults because he didn’t. She wasn’t transformed into a lady because it was what she thought she ought to do. His love motivated her to want to become the lady she was created to be. He didn’t lay rules on her or point out ways she needed to change; he just loved her and his relationship to her caused the change in her to become a natural result.
Have you realized the transforming power that comes through knowing that God loves you exactly where you are at this moment? Your religious upbringing may cause a haunting voice to criticize you, causing you to feel a shameful need to do better first, but don’t confuse that for the voice of God’s Spirit. He never criticizes, never tells you that you have to change to be loved and completely accepted by Him. He loves you right where you are, no matter what you’re doing or not doing. It’s amazing. Even at times you don’t love yourself, He does.
This issue is one of the biggest differences between authentic Christianity and the legalistic counterfeit that often calls itself by the same name. New Testament Christianity is as immersed in grace as a fish living in the ocean. Where there is no loving grace present, there is no authentic expression of Christianity. God is love and Jesus has come to make that love known to us. He loves you at every moment, in every situation you find yourself.
The pseudo-Christianity of the modern world focuses primarily on a need to change ourselves to position ourselves into a better standing with God. This unloving brand of legalism will not help you because it is not biblical Christianity. It is a poser, a counterfeit, and an impostor. It can never empower anybody to change because its core value isn’t love. At its core is the demand for an improved performance.
Even if you could change the way you behave, it would have absolutely no effect on how God feels about you. His love isn’t provoked by our actions but by the miraculous agape that flows out of Him completely independent of our actions or attitudes. Rules may tell you to change to gain God’s love but grace tells you that you are loved right now and couldn’t be loved any more.
Legalistic prescriptions and efforts change nothing for the better. Pure Love truly changes everything. If you hunger to see growth in your personal grace walk, abandon every religious thought. Embrace the Divine Love in order to experience the transformation you long to know. If you want to see others be transformed, don’t focus on changing them. Just love them. Just like Don’s love for Jackie, your unconditional love for others will become a transforming force in their lives. In the end, love never fails. You can count on it.