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Beloved because we are lovely

When journeying with those who have not been well loved by others and who do not love themselves all that much (or at all) it is not enough to simply proclaim, “God loves you and everybody else!” This proclamation is truncated and incomplete. The problem with this message is that proclaiming that “God loves everybody” does little to address the underlying issues faced by the unloved person. “Okay,” that person thinks, “God loves even people who are worthless. That doesn't change the fact that I'm worthless.” Our proclamation that “God loves you” is only a complete proclamation when we proclaim that “God loves you because you are lovely.” God does not simply love us because that's what God does regardless of who we are; God loves us because there is something about us that God finds worth loving.
Adopting this proclamation means engaging in a bit of a paradigm shift in how we understand the people with whom we engage in the (embodied!) act of proclamation. Instead of viewing people as hell-bound sinners we must come to see people as God's craftsmanship, surely broken, but inherently good and beautiful. Of course, all this is not to say that God owes us love, or that we earn God's love; rather, it is to say that, from the get-go, God has made us lovely — and, therefore, God loves everyone.
Indeed, this loveliness is precisely what I have discovered in those whom society tends to see as completely unloveable. As I have journeyed into relationships with prostitutes, pimps, addicts, dealers, sex offenders and other criminals, I have been overwhelmed by the loveliness that is in all of these people. The tragedy is not that these people are devoid of anything lovely — that tragedy is how broken they have become and how we have trapped them within that brokenness by treating them as though they are worthless. This is why we are not simply sinners saved by grace. We are those created lovely by God, broken by sin, and transformed through the Spirit of the new creation into greater loveliness — thereby also becoming greater lovers of others.

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