Imani MCC of Durham

a church where, through faith, all can experience and express God's irresistible love through worship, word, oneness, wonder and witness.

We Are Worthy

I hope you realize somedayAt a recent Bible study, here at Imani, the subject of worthiness came up. I was reminded that there are some truths that must penetrate multiple layers of misinformation, judgments and criticisms, bad theology, unenlightened scripture interpretation, and internalized phobias and self-doubt before those truths can connect and resonate with us at our core. The most effective tool that I know of to overcome our resistance to the truth that sets us free is repetition: sometimes we simply need to hear things over and over again until we are able to take them in.

It makes sense, if you think about it. Our most deeply-held doubts and fears about our worthiness to enjoy peaceful relationship with God are the result of countless exposures to messages that tell us that we are not worthy of that. If we were not raised hearing those messages in our churches, some of us heard them from our families. If we didn’t hear them from our churches or families, some of us heard them from our peers - personal and professional - in the form of demeaning jokes or bullying. If we, somehow, managed to escape all of those, we hear the negative messages almost every time we turn on the news and hear about the backlash against progress that has been made toward a more just society. Every affirming forward step is swiftly followed by ridiculously hostile denunciation by the radical right and renewed efforts to stem the movement of the political tide toward equality and justice. Every time a new election results in the passage of an anti-equality measure, the message is that we are surrounded by people who see us as unworthy of the fulfillment of basic human needs and the enjoyment of basic civil rights which they take for granted as their due.

… we still have a secret struggle with feelings of unworthiness to consider ourselves full-fledged, equally-beloved, children of God and disciples of Christ.

So we have heard, in many forms throughout our lives, messages that told us that we are not worthy of God’s unconditional love; that as expansive as God’s grace is, it does not reach far enough to encompass and embrace us as we are. We would have to change, we’re told, in order to be “worthy.” And many of us took that in; with the result that even though we understand, intellectually, that those messages are false, and we understand, intellectually, what makes them false we still have a secret struggle with feelings of unworthiness to consider ourselves full-fledged, equally-beloved, children of God and disciples of Christ.

If repetition is the best antidote to these toxic messages, I am happy to say it as often as necessary: You are as worthy of God’s love, you are as loved by God, and you are as much as part of the Body of Christ as anyone else.

See here’s the thing: No one’s worthiness depends on what we do or don’t do. It simply does not work that way. There is far more scripture to support that than those few verses that are used to disparage us.

Reliance on anything other than the free gift of God for a sense of worthiness to be in peaceful relationship with God is self-righteousness - a character flaw with which Jesus expressed his displeasure every time he encountered it.

We are children of God by birth; created in God’s image. We are saved by grace through faith, not by the quality or quantity of our works. God’s saving grace is a gift - freely given and available to all. Reliance on anything other than the free gift of God for a sense of worthiness to be in peaceful relationship with God is self-righteousness - a character flaw with which Jesus expressed his displeasure every time he encountered it. Unfortunately and ironically, it seems that religious people are particularly susceptible to self-righteousness. Religious folk tend to be legalistic thinkers. They tend to need rules and love rules and take great pride in following rules better than others. And religion provides them with lots of rules to fuel their legalistic, self-righteous, I-follow-the-rules-better-than-you-do-therefore-I-am-more-worthy-than-you mentality.

The people who struggle most with feelings of unworthiness are those of us who have spent the most time under the greatest influence of religious, self-righteous types who taught us that our worthiness before God is dependent upon our compliance with religious rules. This is not limited to LGBT Christians. For example, I’ve been following a TV program about young people who have left their Amish communities, and I find that I can relate to them in many ways. The same is true when I hear the stories of people who have escaped both religious and non-religious cults. Anyone who is indoctrinated by black-and-white, dogmatic, we’re-right-and-everyone-else-is-wrong belief systems, is likely to struggle with feeling unworthy of a good and happy life for a while after rejecting those systems. Add religion to the mix, and the feelings of unworthiness expand and extend to one’s relationship with God.

And so I say it again: You are as worthy of God’s love, you are as loved by God, and you are as much as part of the Body of Christ as anyone else. You are as worthy of God’s love, you are as loved by God, and you are as much as part of the Body of Christ as anyone else. You are as worthy of God’s love, you are as loved by God, and you are as much as part of the Body of Christ as anyone else. You are as worthy of God’s love, you are as loved by God, and you are as much as part of the Body of Christ as anyone else...

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Imani MCC of Durham • 3602 C-View Street • Durham NC 27713 • 919-682-0154 • Sunday Worship at 10:00 am
Mailing Address: PO Box 13172 • Durham NC 27709-3172
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