I’ve been researching used cars to replace mine for the past few months. I often come across a used vehicle on Marketplace being sold “As Is.” In other words, the car has cosmetic or engine issues, and the seller will not do anything to it. If one takes the keys and buys it “as is,” they must put the money and effort into any repairs. I might be attracted to such an offer if I was a handy person or a mechanic. However, I am not. So I will easily pass on most things sold “as is.”
Sometimes we are challenged to accept things “as is” - or just as they are. We often go to a place of denial so we don’t have to accept things as they are. Whether it is a situation, a health diagnosis, a death, or something else entirely, acceptance of the situation “as is” is a process and frequently the last step of the process (such as Kuhbler-Ross’s stages of grief).
Acceptance is a key aspect of every relationship, even in our relationship with the Lord. But it takes wisdom and discernment to know what we accept or not accept “as is.” (More on what NOT to accept in the next blog, “As Is” - Part 2)
Some spouses say, “That’s just who I am. If you can’t accept that, it’s your problem.” When I hear this, it is often stated as an excuse for sin. One husband shared this statement with his wife after she complained about his anger outbursts. He often blew up at small things and caused fear among his family members. His approach was not to humble himself and repent but to declare himself an unchanging angry person. The angry husband told his family they must change and accept him “as is.” This is an example of using “as is” as an excuse to sin.
Sometimes we have difficulty accepting people “as is.” Anyone who has been married knows their spouse has a few hang-ups (like ourselves!). We’d like them to change certain things about themselves. Maybe we’d like them to change their weight or eating and drinking habits. Perhaps we’d like them to be less lazy, more outgoing, desire sex more (or less) frequently, or go deeper in emotional intimacy. Wanting our spouses (or others) to be different in a few areas isn’t wrong in itself. Yet when we try to change them into who we want them to be, we assume the role of the Holy Spirit, attempting to transform them into the image of our ideal spouse.
When we attempt to change others, we essentially say, “I don’t accept you ‘as is,’ but will try to make you into who I think you should be.” We may not treat them as a person to be loved but as a project to be fixed. Or, perhaps we might view them as a hassle we have to deal with that needs to change to fit into our mold. So we get hurt, angry, and sin against them as a punishment or an effort to get them to see our point of view and change.
This is what happened in Susan and John’s marriage. John failed to live up to Susan’s expectations for emotional intimacy. When he didn’t meet her emotional needs, she lashed out at him for being self-centered and insensitive. While she wanted him to understand and change as a result of her yelling, she actually drove him further away. Her yelling at him and trying to get him to change showed him that she was not a safe person to be emotionally open with - that is, if he was willing to grow in emotional intimacy.
If we are honest with ourselves, accepting others “as is” is not easy. In fact, we have a hard time accepting ourselves “as is.” Yet it is something that we, as believers, ought to strive for.
Why? Because God accepts us “as is” (though He moves us to do more - more on that later).
One of the most popular hymns sung in the church is “Just As I Am.” This song is about God’s acceptance of us, just as we are - sinners. We do not need to get to a specific place in morality to be approved by Him, but Christ died for us “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:8). We cannot improve ourselves to gain his acceptance. If our righteous actions are like filthy rags (Is 64:6), how can we expect to earn or gain anything from God?
Accepting others “as is” is evidence of God’s grace in our lives. God has given us unmerited favor or grace. The descriptor unmerited means that God’s favor, given to us, can’t be earned. We do not need to change or do anything to receive it. God gives His grace to us just as we are. He accepts us “as is.” However, we struggle to accept others “as is” and instead operate in a works-based system in relationships that is based on merit and standard meeting.
One of the most common examples from marriages that I come across is when one spouse is critical of the family members. This spouse tends to be a perfectionist and measures others’ performance according to a standard in their mind. If someone fails to live up to the standard (merit), a negative comment, criticism, or suggestion on how to do better flows from the heart and out of the mouth. They will earn our love, favor, or approval if they change and do what we want. This often causes hurt feelings, fear of disappointment in others, and damage to the relationship. Instead of unmerited favor, the recipient gets a response that is merit-based.
Just as His grace is freely given to us, we extend the same grace we received from God to others. It is to accept others as they are without demanding that they change or become someone we want them to become. Merited favor is a works-based exchange system with rewards and consequences set for certain actions. Grace, however, is a person-centered relational system of Christ-focused love. Only grace will lead to healthy relationships.
As recipients of God’s unmerited favor, grace does not leave us solely in the place of becoming accepted alone and then us doing what we want. No, His favor influences us and empowers us to become more like Jesus, which is His desire for us (Rom 8:29). Once we accept or believe we are favored “as is” as sinners, we are moved by such grace to love the grace-giver. Grace is a magnificent gift that inspires a meaningful response. Accepting God’s favor “as is” will inspire a “will be” inside us. This is true in our relationship with God, but also true in relationships with others.
Grace is a magnificent gift that inspires a meaningful response.
Receiving unmerited favor frees us to be and to feel emotionally and physically safe in relationships. If I am free to be me in my relationship with God, I am also free to fail without falling out of favor. I know I am a sinner. I know I will fail. I will not try to fail, but because I will, and I know He favors me, I will not live in guilt and shame but will turn to Him in all humility and admit my failures. In my relationship with others, giving and receiving unmerited favor will help provide the atmosphere where failing is followed by repentance, forgiveness, and a rebuilding of trust. Failing may have consequences, but favor and love lead us through any restoration and healing process.
If I were to purchase a used vehicle “as is,” it would be a project that required a lot of money and work. While I might enjoy a finished product, I could not have a meaningful relationship with it. Through Christ’s death on the cross, He has purchased us by His grace “as is.” And, honestly, we need a lot of work. Yet, as God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10), He empowers us by His grace and provides us the Holy Spirit to live in us. Hence, we have everything we need in this life for godliness (2 Pet 1:3). Therefore, if God accepts us “as is” by His grace, our relationship goal ought to begin with receiving His unmerited favor for ourselves, followed by giving the same grace to others. In doing so, we take steps to become more like Christ, the One filled with grace and truth (Jn 1:14).
In “As Is” - Part 2, I will explore what we ought not to accept “as is” and how we might respond in situations requiring grace-filled responses to significant sins and sin patterns.
- Fred Jacoby, Executive Director/Counselor