Charlotte Elliott was born in Clapham, England in 1789. In her younger years, Charlotte was a writer and artist, but by age thirty, her health began to fail. For the next fifty years, she would live in perpetual pain and illness. Because of her constant sickness, she frequently became frustrated and despondent. She would often say, “If God loved me, why would he do this to me?”
One day, a Swiss minister came to the Elliott house for dinner. During the meal, Charlotte, as she was prone to do, became frustrated, burst into a temper tantrum and stormed out of the room, much to the embarrassment of her family.
The minister followed her into the next room and quietly told her that the reason she was so angry was because she had nothing to which to cling. Her only hope, he told her, was to turn to the Lord. But she didn’t know how she could do that. “How could I, such an angry and bitter person, turn to God?” she asked. “You can go to God,” the minister told her, “just as you are.”
Charlotte Elliott never forgot that pastor’s advice. Years later she sat down and wrote what would become one of the most famous hymns of all time. “Just as I am,” she wrote, “without one plea but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
For those of us who struggle with self-esteem, who look at ourselves in the mirror and don’t like what we see, who feel like nobody who really knows us could love us, there were no more comforting words ever spoken. God accepts me. God loves me. God receives me just as I am.
It is important, though, we understand what that means. God accepts you just as you are, but that doesn’t mean you are acceptable just as you are.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that God sees the good in everybody. It doesn’t mean that you are good enough just the way you are. You are a sinner. You are a liar. You are stubborn. You hold grudges. You worry. You doubt. You have dark and dirty sins no one else knows about. You are not good enough just as you are. You are not acceptable by God’s standards.
And yet he still accepts you. Why? Charlotte Elliott tells us: “Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.” God accepts you because he forgives you. God rejected his Son – punished him for your dirty sins – so he could accept you. You have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus and the waters of Holy Baptism.
God accepts you because of Jesus. He accepts you because of his love. God’s love and acceptance make you special. You are a dear child of God. You are perfect in his eyes – not because you are perfect, but because you have been washed clean in Jesus’ blood. God takes us dirty, worthless beggars and makes us as his dearly loved children. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, you can go to God… just as you are.