As a student of both psychology and theology it concerns me when churches speak of us as unworthy of God’s love, leaving repair work for psychology to do. If we were not worthy of love then God, who is perfect, would surely know this and not love us. ‘But we are sinful creatures,’ they say, ‘unable to be loved by God because of our sin, our fallen state, that’s why Jesus had to come.’
I’m paraphrasing here, obviously, but it is a real concern of mine. I have spent years working to repair my own sense of worth, both inside and outside the church and inside and outside of psychologists’ offices, and I don’t need to be cut down again, just as I am learning to stand up as who God has made me, gradually gaining confidence in being that person in fullness and not just in safe space. Nobody needs to be told repeatedly that they are unworthy, and yet I see it in the church all too often.
As my understanding of what sin is develops, I am also gaining understanding of what sin is not. At this point I understand sin to be whatever gets in the way of unity with God, unity with others (particularly the God-design and Spirit in others), and unity with myself (particularly the God-design and Spirit in myself). But even knowing that as a Christian I, all too frequently, act in ways which inhibit God in my life, which inhibit my own God-given nature, I know that my sin doesn’t dictate my worth.
Sin is not the deciding factor of our worth. It is not that we are worthy of love, of connection with God, if sinless and unworthy if sinful. We have worth regardless of our sin status. What sin does is break the connection we can have with God, causing separation. Sin gets in between us and God, preventing us from seeing each other, from living in unity with each other. Our worth is completely separate.
If we were not worthy God wouldn’t have gone to all the effort that we read throughout the Bible, God wouldn’t have become human (see Hebrews 2:17 and Philippians 2:5-8). If we weren’t made and designed to live in unity, in communion with God (see Genesis 3:8 and this comment on it), then Christ wouldn’t have come, wouldn’t have died.
Our worth is not up for discussion, it was already decided by God in the beginning, in the very process of our design.
Sin prevents that design from developing in fullness, but cannot change our worth. God loved us while we were sinners (see Romans 5:8). God had compassion and mercy on us, while we were still sinners. We were worth it, we were worthy of that love and connection, while we were sinners; it’s just that sin got in the way, it blocked us from receiving God’s love, it convinced us that we were unworthy of receiving it. Christ’s death and resurrection made it possible for us to receive it again, to connect with God and live in unity again, but our worth was never in question.
This also means that all our efforts cannot change our worth. It doesn’t matter how much we behave as a ‘good Christian’, how frequently we read our Bibles or pray, how many works of our hands we do in service to God, how much we strive for holiness; our worth does not change. It is through Christ that we are made holy and faultless for God (see Colossians 1:22), not our own efforts. All the works of our hands could not make a difference to our worth.
Our design as image-bearers of God (see Genesis 1:27) dictates our worth, not our sin, not our holiness. And when we accept Christ as our Saviour, the sin is no longer in the way, it is no longer a burden keeping us from God or keeping God from us, and we no longer need to strive for perfect holiness to justify our existence. We can stand in the throne-room of God as we were designed to be: image-bearers of God, children of the One called Love (see 1 John 3:1 and 1 John 4:8), and worth it all.