A couple of hundred years ago, a man named P.T. Barnum had a dream for a traveling oddity museum that turned into what we now know as The Circus. Barnum traveled around looking for a cast of characters who were, in the world’s eyes, unattractive, strange and odd, in order to attract a crowd. Weird huh? But it worked. Barnum’s cast of characters were people who were seen as outcasts and untouchables to most people—“freaks” in the eyes of others. Individually, these were people who you never get picked for any team, however, people lined up in droves to see this ensemble of diverse people.
Have you ever been picked last for a team? How did that make you feel? It can be a pretty terrible feeling. But now let’s think about the opposite scenario.
Have you ever been picked first for a team? How did that feel? Yeah, that can be the best feeling ever. Maybe you were picked first because the captain saw something in you. Maybe the team believed your leadership, your gifts, or your skills would be the thing that led them to victory. Whether it’s getting chosen for the basketball team, the debate team, a group project, or even a seat at the “cool table,” it feels great to be chosen and wanted, doesn’t it?
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT IDENTITY
These feelings are all normal, of course. It makes sense that we’d feel a little bit of a sting when we feel like we haven’t been chosen or seen. And it makes sense that we’d feel a little bit of pride and satisfaction when we feel like we have. But if we’re not careful, we can give these feelings of disappointment or elation a little too much weight. Sometimes, we let these moments do more than disappoint or excite us. Sometimes, we let them define us. If we’re not careful, we can allow our identities to become wrapped up in how other people see us and treat us.
Genesis 1:27-31 says, “God created humankind in God’s own image, in the image of God the Lord created them; male and female God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that God had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”
This is the first time humans show up in Scripture. In these verses, what does God say about you? God says you are “made in God’s image,” and “very good.” This is such an important place to start. When God created you, the Lord said you were “very good” because you were God’s handiwork, made in God’s image.
Unfortunately, that’s not all we are. We were made in God’s image and God called God’s creation “very good,” it’s probably not a surprise that humanity isn’t always “good.” We’ve all been known to do, say, think, and believe some pretty “not good” things sometimes. So here are a few more things God says about us.
In the book of Romans 5:6-8 we read, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In these verses, what does God say about you? God says you are “powerless,” “ungodly,” “sinners,” but also, “loved.” Some of these words are pretty ugly, aren’t they? I don’t like to think about myself in some of these terms, but if I’m honest, I know they’re true. You See, when sin came into the world, it separated us from God. We were outcasts and enemies of God because of sin. But God knew this in advance. God knew you and I would choose sin and that sin would separate us from the Lord, but God was about redemption, reconciliation and bringing us back into relationship.
Yes, God says we’re sinners. But He also says we’re loved. He said He loved us even when we didn’t say it back. When we are outcasts, God says we are loved. When we are at our worst, God shows us His best. Even when we and everyone else says we’re broken, dispensable, ugly, worthless, or unlovable, God says, “You are loved.”
Romans 6:6 states, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…” There is so much more God says about us in Scripture, and so much we can do to respond to the things God says about us.
Do you believe you’re loved?
Here’s the question I want you to think about and reflect on: do you believe you’re loved? When you choose to believe what God says about you—that you’re loved beyond measure, designed in God’s image, created for good and not for evil—it changes the things you believe about yourself. But that change won’t happen until you choose to believe it and then do something about it.
I know the opinions of others are powerful. They can shape how you see yourself and how you move through the world. So this week, here’s what I want you to know, to believe, and to remember: you are so loved. I love you. The people in our church love you. And, most important, you are loved beyond your wildest dreams by the God who created you. You are loved. Now go live like it. Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.” This brings praise and glory to God.