A Christian and responsible approach to self-esteem
The Gospel calls Christians to a Christian approach to self esteem … This accepts just secular therapies, as “an effect of common grace.”
Relationship with God altered by sin
Sin is the desire to be like God, the “refusal to admit human limitations“. It distorts our relationship with God and our perception of ourselves.
An affirmation of human values unfounded in God is incompatible with the Christian faith. Sin is not “a lack of self-fulfillment” but a break with God. Only the cross of Christ can it restore.
The world is affected by sin. It is filled with sinners, “who only care about themselves and about their interests near and far,” although this selfishness awakens in them feelings of guilt.
Limits of rational reasoning
Some secular therapies reject feelings of guilt and repentance in order to promote a mental health based on reason.
But “rational reasoning” prevents neither immorality … nor unacceptable actions, like the Nazi camps or other more current abuses … It is better to be biblically realistic about the human nature separated from God by sin. But we are invited, through faith in Christ’s work, to find again fellowship with him and good relations with others, than to reject repentance, as do the secular therapies, and thus to prevent from “facing the past, “knowing that it is resolved and receiving forgiveness.
Unlike a groundless optimism, “Christian realism” remains still lucid before the reality and the seriousness of sin. It emphasizes self-denial, which is central “in all Christian thought on holiness“. This opposes the search for self-sufficiency, “characteristic of the fallen nature“, enhanced by modern Western society. Its mind is eager for individual success at all costs, considered as a “vital component of self-regard” by the position it can bring in society.
For Augustine, “our natural liberty is a counterfeit autonomy“. It is by serving God that we are truly free.
For a Christian, in fact, failure can contribute to a better understanding of himself, of his weakness. So he will place his confidence in God rather than in his own ability. In the Christian doctrine of grace, “our acceptance by ourselves or by God does not depend in any case … on what we do.” Through the cross, “God removes” the guilt that alienated us, and “he affirms our value” without any merit. …
The cross, objective foundation of self-esteem
How can God forgive sin, a transgression so serious and so deep of the moral and legal order that it has perverted the creation and led to the crucifixion?
Only the intervention of God himself can pull man and nature out of this alienating accumulation of sin and guilt.
The cross makes this release possible, changing our relationship with God, by removing the separation barrier to reconcile us with him. God alone could take away “the guilt and the power of man’s sin“. By faith we receive “all that Christ acquired through the cross, the full and free forgiveness of sins“, and his righteousness, because we are part of the alliance that Christ is between God and humanity.
The gospel recognizes the reality and the seriousness of sin, but it responds to it with the cross, “the objective support of Christian self-esteem ” and the foundation of justification by faith, which consists in “accepting to be accepted while being unacceptable “.
The link between God’s work on the cross and self-esteem
Some pictures of the New Testament make explicit the link between the work of God on the cross and self-esteem. The image of the ransom paid by Christ to free us from sin and death shows our value to God ; likewise the reconciliation “with a known and loved God allows “ to face the future.” Understanding the impact of salvation, of deliverance from sin and of restoration of the integrity of the person, “can add value on our person, according to a proper Christian perspective.”
Sin did not “definitively kill the idea of self-esteem”
As forgiven sinners in a process of renewal, we can have “a certain esteem of ourselves by projecting us in our future of fully redeemed persons, beyond our present condition of sinners.”
Justification by faith depends on two external causes: the work of Christ and faith, “produced … by God,” which exclude the idea of justifying ourselves by works. It provides “a proper relationship with God” and grants us value before him.
“The existence of sin – acknowledged and confessed – does not negate our Christian status.” But we must give up the unrealistic idea of believing we are perfect and of considering imperfection as an inadmissible flaw.
We can acknowledge our imperfection while rejoicing in our future transformation in the image of Jesus Christ. Being conscious of sin expresses the balance between the ongoing struggle against sin and justification by faith.