You're Not the Point of God's Love

8:00 AM

If you're a leader in a women's ministry, I can predict your word from the Lord. And the next one. And the next. It'll run something like this:


God loves you. No, I'm serious. God loves you. He thinks you're amazing and beautiful.

Sometimes I want to quit women's ministry all together and go hang out with the guys...unless guys too have a self-conscious beauty complex? In which case, I'll go chill with the preschoolers.

There's nothing wrong with reminding people that God loves them, because He does. There's nothing wrong with reminding particular Christians that God loves them personally, because He really does. There's nothing wrong with reminding them that God delights in them as His children and His creations...because He really, truly, honest-to-goodness does. And I know from firsthand experience that when that hits you in even the smallest way, you crumple in worship, you fill up with joy, you want to tell everybody this unbelievable truth.

I'm not concerned with the exact words of what some women's encouragement groups say. I'm concerned about what they're leaving out. (Also, I'm concerned with people claiming to speak from God and then parroting the same version of this love-yourself-gospel. Does God seriously talk about nothing but how awesome we are? I'm a skeptic. I think God's conversation is a little more interesting and varied...but that's my personal opinion.)

The idea behind many women's ministries is that women's primary problem is lack of self-worth. If they only understood how worthy they are as God's daughters, they would spring up out of their depression, cutting, unsuccessful creative endeavors, bad relationships, and whatever else gets them down.

I think women's ultimate chronic problem is just like every man's: too much focus on things other than God stemming from too much focus on self. And when we barrage women with constant messages of how awesome they are and how much God loves them, we're only getting half the answer right. God does love us...and His love is a life-changing, redemptive love that reorients the soul from navel-gazing to staring into the face of God Himself.

Whenever I hear these messages, these "words from the Lord," about God's love for us, I get nervous. I feel that these ideas refocus women's hearts back onto themselves: "Whoa. I am awesome. I am awesome. I am so awesome that even God celebrates me!" 

That's not the message of the Gospel. Not even close. The message of the Gospel is to know God. He loved us first that we might love Him. Whenever someone says, "God loves you," our response ought to be, "Holy bananas -- God is so awesome because He loves me." His love instigates a relationship where He becomes central to our awe and our celebration. Incidentally, as we love Him more, our self-worth issues roll away into a little pile of irrelevance. We're lost in the beauty, romance, and wonder of a transcendent God taking on flesh to redeem His beloved but corrupted creation.

Let's talk more about that, shall we?

Do you see this as a problem in your women's groups?
How do you redirect attention from self-esteem toward God Himself?
 
p.s. Reader Abigail attests to the danger of preaching God loves you apart from a solid grasp of the gospel:
 
I used to be so tired of hearing about how much God loved me, and because the emphasis bothered me, I knew it couldn't possibly all be true, and therefore began to doubt God's supposed limitless, unconditional, all-surpassing love. I didn't think we were worth it, and was pretty sure that God's love was just another weapon in the self-esteem arsenal. It was only when I came to properly understand the gospel that I could grasp how and why God actually loved me, and it was liberating.

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10 impressions

  1. Actually, too much focus on self and putting too much stock in the fact you're "worthy" (which is actually debatable) opens the door wayyyyy open for pride to waltz in (true story). Recently I've had some seriously hard places in my hard where God showed me I had far too good an image of myself, and I prayed and asked God to open my eyes to just how wretched I am so I could better understand His grace and love. That's the thing about God's love. It's nothing we do or believe that makes us worthy of it. It's because of His grace that sees us worthy. It's all about Him, and what He has done for us. Nothing we've done, could ever do or be.

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    1. So true, Jasmine. I wish more women realized how freeing it is to not even TRY to be worthy (if that's even a thing), and just let God's grace wash over them and direct their attention to Christ!

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  2. AMEN PREACH. This was one of the big things that bugged me about "Mom's Night Out."

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    1. Funny....I watched "Mom's Night Out" twice (AND LOVED IT SO MUCH), and this never bugged me. Maybe I just tuned it out as typical Christian film cheesiness??? I don't remember! :P

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  3. YES. THIS.
    So glad I am not the only one who thinks this way! You make me think of Elyse Fitzpatrick. https://vimeo.com/88183103

    This post explains my major beef with "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge. Let's face it, there are tons of ministries, books, resources, etc. that tout this love-yourself-gospel. :(

    ~ Rachel H.

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    1. Yeah, "Captivating" was definitely on my mind when I wrote this. I was always "Yes, but" about that book...so much so that I didn't bother reading it all the way. :P

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  4. This is so incredibly true. Thank you for articulating so well what I have felt since age eight, cynically staring at women's ministry advertisements in the church bulletin. It always bothered me that "women's ministry" was treated like it was exclusively about self-worth and being a good wife and mother, and even though I didn't have the maturity or information to articulate what was missing or wrong, I always thought that when I was a grown up, I'd go to the gender-neutral discipleship classes about general topics. There is a place for ministry focused on the concerns of specific age groups, genders, and life stages, but only if it's focused fundamentally on what we all have in common: a sin nature and a desperate need for redemption that will recreate every aspect of life in the light of God and His truth.

    I love all your posts, but this is one where I was especially nodding along. I used to be so tired of hearing about how much God loved me, and because the emphasis bothered me, I knew it couldn't possibly all be true, and therefore began to doubt God's supposed limitless, unconditional, all-surpassing love. I didn't think we were worth it, and was pretty sure that God's love was just another weapon in the self-esteem arsenal. It was only when I came to properly understand the gospel that I could grasp how and why God actually loved me, and it was liberating.

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    1. This is so, so, so beautiful. I'm sticking your quote at the bottom of this article because I love it so much!

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  5. Powerful message, Bailey, and beautifully written!

    When I think of God's love as a self motivator it generally goes along the lines of...
    Me: I don't want to write this paper.
    Myself: You should really write this paper.
    Me: But I don't care if I fail the class.
    Myself: If you fail the class you might not get the career you've been dreaming about since you were 5.
    Me: Cashiers really have it pretty good.
    Myself: [pulls out trump card] God loves you.
    Me: Huh?
    Myself: God loves you so much that he personally gave you the talents to back up your interests and then told you how to use those to serve him.
    Me: But-
    Myself: If your Mom gave you a present that perfectly filled some need of yours would you throw that gift away?
    Me: No....
    Myself: Then write that paper!
    Me: [grumbling] Fi-ine....

    --Rhianna

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    1. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who talks myself into doing things with almost-audible conversations in my head. ;) Thanks for reading and responding, Rihanna!

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