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The world is not short on criticism, whether it is justified or not.


Throughout history we’ve been a people at war, and where we find ourselves now is the culmination of that constant hostility. We hear the word “polarized” thrown around by every side of the aisle, but the word doesn’t even begin to describe it. Polarization is just the ground floor, nay, it is the basement, perhaps even the bunker.


We are a people who have built our world on a foundation of hatred, judgment and condemnation. We have lived in hatred for so long, we’re experts in raising children who hate themselves and no longer need someone else to do it for them.


Kids speak ill of themselves, hear it from their peers and feel it when one or both parents neglect, abuse or abandon them. Kids know hatred, adults know hatred. We all have received it, and we all have dolled it out. None of us are exempt, none of us will go through life unscathed or innocent.

Ripped blue teddy bear lying on the ground outside by a shrub

Maybe your parents mistreated you as a child (and perhaps still do as an adult). Maybe your boss or employees berate you. Maybe you have a significant other whose favorite hobby is to belittle you. Maybe you identify with a certain group of people who are constantly demeaned by popular culture. Maybe there’s someone on social media whose obsession is to make you miserable. Maybe your friend is more often a source of criticism than support. Maybe the voice inside your head beats to the drum of, “You’re not good enough,” “No one loves you,” and “You’ll never amount to anything.”


Yes, the number of outlets for hatred to infiltrate are many and therefore, seemingly constant. Turn on the radio: criticism. Walk into the office: judgment. Stand in line at the grocery: gossip. Flip on the news: hatred. Scroll through social media: slander. The list goes on, and with it, the hostility. If we don’t watch ourselves, our days can begin and end with hatred, with nothing but hatred in between.


Now, you might be someone who can take the constant criticism. You don’t care what others think of you or what they think of each other. The division and wars happening around the world have no effect on you.


If we don't watch ourselves, our days can begin and end with hatred, with nothing but hatred in between.

The thought of your child being bullied online and/or at school doesn’t keep you up at night. If you’re one of those people, this message is still for you. In fact, this message is especially for you because if you claim this world’s hatred and constant criticism has no effect on you, you have in fact been affected by the very thing you claim to care nothing about. We might like to act “tough” and say we can handle whatever life throws at us, whether it be criticism or hatred, but this persona is just a defense mechanism. At some point, someone or something hurt you and caused you to build a barricade around yourself. You might think it prevents the outside from getting in, but you are only fooling yourself. And that is not healthy, mentally, physically or spiritually.


If you are one of those people, this isn’t to call you out; just like it isn’t to call out the rest of us who do care what others think and are disturbed by what’s going on in our world. This isn’t a calling out at all, but a calling in.


Yes, our world is breaking apart, and hate is the sledgehammer being used to do it. Evil is everywhere, and you are one of its targets. The delivery method might be different for you than it is for me (i.e. through a friend, co-worker, parent or spouse), but the source is the same. However and whenever evil reaches you, there comes a point when it all feels like too much. Like there’s nothing you can do to stop it. And maybe perhaps, something worse, it’s true. You’ve heard the criticism for so long, you accept it as truth.

Female Lego character torn in pieces

You may feel like no one cares. As if you could die tomorrow and no one would notice. Perhaps you’re even eager to escape all this chaos. But take heart, my friend, because not all hope is lost. Hear me when I say: you are loved and you are wanted.


Not the version of you on Instagram or TikTok. Not the kind of person you say you’ll be in ten years. But the you sitting here right now reading this. You are loved and you are wanted.


It might sound impossible, and it is, to an extent. You being loved and wanted is a fact, just like it’s a fact that it’s humanly impossible for you to be 100% loved for 100% of who you are. But that’s the point; it’s not a human who loves you exactly as you are and wants a relationship with you, it’s God.


Yes, God, as in the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The God you read about in the Christian Bible (both in the Old and New Testaments). Not Buddha, not Allah, not Confucius, but the One and Only God.


Before we go any further, let me say this: Don’t worry, this isn’t some spiel to sell you Christianity. It’s not even to make you feel better about yourself. What this is really about is to share the truth with you and speak it with love.


Why do I want to do that? Because that’s what God is all about. He is Ultimate Truth and He is love (John 1:14, 14:6; 1 John 4:8, 16, 19). Therefore, everything He says is absolutely true and everything He does comes from a place of pure love. This is the One who loves you and wants you. And because He loves you and wants you, I love you and want you to know Him.


In fact, He loves me so much, He's willing to allow me to choose Him, however long that may take (Psalm 86:16, 2 Peter 3:9).

You see, my life was forever changed when I realized God wasn’t out to get me. His goal isn’t to demand I obey countless laws only to condemn me when I inevitably break them all (Romans 8:1). Neither is it for Him to force me to worship Him. No, God knows exactly who I am and chooses to love me anyway (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). In fact, He loves me so much, He’s willing to allow me to choose Him, however long that may take (Psalm 86:16, 2 Peter 3:9). He wants me to want Him, anything other than that simply doesn’t align with who He is.


This is the same God who loves you and wants you. He doesn’t demand you “clean yourself up” before you approach Him. He doesn’t dismiss you just because you’ve made a lot of bad decisions in your life. Nothing will make Him turn away from you, not even if you’re a deceitful, arrogant murderer. After all, He’s already forgiven at least one such person, that we know of, and He’s not One to change His mind (Numbers 23:19, James 1:17). Don’t believe me? Read about a guy named Paul in the New Testament of the Bible, and then let me know if you still think that’s impossible. (To help you out, read the book of Acts in particular; it’s in the New Testament, right after John and before Romans.)


God can and will forgive anyone who realizes their need for Him and wants a relationship with Him (2 Cor. 5:17, 1 John 1:9). It’s not some cutesy phrase Christians use to get you on their side. It’s not something we tack on to every throw pillow and mug just to make ourselves feel better. It’s the truth, and you can read all about it in the Bible. Seriously. It’s literally littered throughout the entire book, all you need to do is look for it. And trust me, you won’t have to look very hard.

Black notebook decorated with a floral cross and the phrase, "You are loved" in all capital letters

Some of you might not even have to look at all because you already know one verse that tells you exactly that: God loves you. It’s a verse people write on signs and hold up at random sporting events. It’s a verse you find on countless necklaces, journals, mugs, wall art and anything else that can be embroidered.


“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV


Ring a bell? There’s a reason this verse is quoted so often: it summarizes God’s character and desire in one sentence.


God is a God of love, patience and compassion; so much so, it’s part of who He is and resulted in the greatest sacrifice of all time: Him giving His Son, Jesus Christ, to save and grant eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.


It doesn’t stop there though, for verse 17 continues, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” THAT is the God who loves you and wants you. If He didn’t, why did He create you and give you the opportunity to choose Him?


No, not everyone who God creates will believe in Him, but that’s not due to any fault on God’s part (Luke 12:8-9, John 3:18, 2 Peter 3:9). Remember, God loves us so much, He wants to give us a choice, to love Him or hate Him. He creates every person and gives each of them this choice, and the offer isn’t just one and done. God knows a person’s heart (He created them after all!), and He knows exactly what it will take to get you to see the Truth. He knows what will happen and when it will happen, and He won’t turn away from you in the meantime.


Remember, God loves us so much, He wants to give us a choice to love Him or hate Him.

He sees you for the person you are now, and He sees you for the person He created you to be. Both versions are good in the sense that all humans are made in His image and everything God makes is good; however, the former is simply a work in progress, and the latter is the masterpiece God painted long ago. He’s just waiting until you’re ready to look at it with Him before He reveals it to you.


Unfortunately, we won’t get to see the masterpiece in this lifetime, but that doesn’t mean there’s no joy or reason to celebrate now. We might be a work in progress, but we’re one being rejoiced over in Heaven and prayed for by Jesus Christ Himself (Zeph. 3:17, Luke 15:10, John 17:20-21, Heb. 7:25). Not only that, Jesus is also preparing a special place for you in Heaven (John 14:2-3).


He knows what messes we’ll get ourselves into along the way. He knows exactly how many times we’ll ignore Him and revert to our old ways. He knows it all, and He keeps working on your Heavenly room anyway.

Smart phone lying on a wooden table with a Bible app open on its screen and showing John 3:16

He’s created you to be His masterpiece, and He has just the spot to put you when you finally get to Heaven. It’s what we choose to do in the interim that matters. Yes, when we turn from our old ways and believe in Jesus, we’re immediately granted a spot in Heaven (1 John 1:9, Luke 23:40-43). If we truly mean it when we say we want a relationship with Him, there’s nothing that can keep us from living with Him forever in Heaven (Romans 8:38-39). We’ll continue to make mistakes, but we’ll do so with the mindset that we don’t want to make the same mistake twice and we’re living to please God, not ourselves (Eph. 5:8-10, 6:6).


When we do that, not only are we showing God how much He means to us, we’re showing the world as well. Through our constant desire to please God, we’re telling the world that it’s ultimately what God thinks of us that matters (Matt. 17:16-20, John 13:34-35). Someone’s words might hurt you, but you’ll get over it. Someone might threaten you, or even physically harm you, but God will get you through it (Deut. 31:6, Isaiah 41:10, 1 Peter 1:6-7). After all, you are God’s beloved masterpiece and He cares for you, and that is all any of us truly need.


The one question that remains then is this: Will you choose to believe God loves you and give yourself to Him? God already told you how He feels about you, it’s your turn to say how you feel about Him.



References:


English Standard Version Bible. (2001). Crossway Bibles.



This post originally appeared on County News Online.

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