The phrase “come as you are” is one that is synonymous with the Christian faith. It’s a phrase that’s heralded to the downtrodden, the prodigal, and the lost. It’s one that suggests, “It doesn’t matter where you have been or what you have done, because Jesus accepts you ‘just as you are.’” Thus, it’s a highly appealing phrase because it provides a great hope for those who feel as though they are beyond repair.
It’s a wonderful statement. But it only tells half of the story.
When we view the phrase from a biblical framework, there are a few conclusions to which we can come:
WE DON’T NECESSARILY COME, BUT ARE FOUND JUST AS WE ARE
Paul writes in Romans 5:12,
“Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
This essentially means that everyone is conceived and born into this world as sinners, separated from God. This is what most refer to as “original sin.” This idea of original sin is advanced in Romans 3:10 when Paul says that our sin leaves us utterly depraved, with no desire to search for God. This means that before God we are “just as we are,” which is hopelessly lost. This also means that the phrase “come just as you are” is a bit misleading because although those who come to God through Jesus all come “just as we are,” we really don’t come at all.
It is instead God who comes.
In the Garden of Eden He walked in the cool of the day to find Adam and Eve after they had sinned (Genesis 3:8).
At the Tower of Babel he came down when we disobeyed His command to spread out and fill the earth (Genesis 11).
And he ultimately came when he sent his Son Jesus to die in our steads because we were lost in our sin (John 3:16).
God has been coming and finding us just as we are since the beginning of time. And he always finds us “just as we are.”
BEFORE WE COME JUST AS WE ARE FOR WORSHIP, WE MUST ADJUST WHAT WE ARE
The most popular use of “coming just as you are” is used in the context of worship and not salvation. It’s not difficult to find a worship song that includes the phrase. The idea of such songs is that, regardless of how you spent your week, you can still “come as you are before your God.”
This, however, can be a very dangerous endeavor.
Consider for a moment a couple named Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). The couple sold a piece of land but held back a portion of the funds in their offering to God. The text says that the result was that Ananias “fell down and breathed his last” (Acts 5:5). Sapphira suffered the same fate (Acts 5:10).
Ananias and Sapphira didn’t die because they didn’t give God their entire paycheck. They died because they essentially came before God unprepared for worship (i.e., they “came just as they were”).
The context of their sin is seen in Acts 4 when the church was of “one heart and soul” and not “one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them” (32). Ananias and Sapphira wanted others to think that they were part of this one heart and soul, but didn’t actually want to be of the one heart and soul.
They “came just as they were,” and it was the death of them.
The Old Testament conveys the same message. The High Priest, prior to worship, needed to offer up sacrifices “for his own sins and then for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 7:27). The idea is that instead of coming to God just as he was, he prepared himself to stand before the presence of God.
Before we “come just as we are before our God,” we should examine ourselves in order that we may come before God for worship.
WE SHOULD COME JUST AS WE ARE, BUT EXPECT TO BE CHANGED
We live in what many call the “post-modern” world. The post-modern mindset questions the very idea of truth, suggesting that it doesn’t exist. This tends to breed compromise and tolerance. All beliefs are welcomed, accepted, and meaningful, but no single belief takes precedence over another. In other words, Jesus may work for one person, but not for another, and that is okay.
This worldview, however, simply does not jive logically, especially with the faith that we call Christianity. Jesus claimed to be “the way.” Thus he is either “the way” or not “the way,” but he cannot be “a way.”
Although this is the case, there are some who attempt to combine post-modernism and Christianity, which results in half-truths like, “come just as you are.” The phrase sounds welcoming and forgiving, but it isn’t necessarily biblical because it is an incomplete sentence.
A better way of stating the phrase would be, “Come just as you are, but expect to be changed!”
COME AS YOU REALLY ARE
In the book, Jim and Casper Go to Church, (a book in which a believer and non-believer travel the nation visiting and evaluating churches), Jim and Casper visit a church in Portland, Oregon called “The Bridge.” The title of the chapter is, Come As You Really Are.
The chapter is about how “The Bridge” is a church designed for those who have become disenchanted with the “normal” way of doing church, and so it accepts the “outcasts” who can come as they “really are,” as opposed to the rest of us who come, I’m assuming, as we “really aren’t.”
These “outcasts” have tattoos, smoke at the entryway, and talk during the “sermon,” among other things. Jim and Casper seem to really like this church because it accepts people “just as they are,” while other churches allegedly use the phrase without truly meaning it.
The problem with this is that becoming a follower of Jesus is more than just “being who you are,” because “being who you are” means being a wretched sinner. Being “who you are” means that, although you identify your shortcomings, you are okay with them because, well, “it’s just who I am.”
But God calls us to leave our sinful ways behind and to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Granted, this takes time. It is not expected (or even possible) that we immediately become a perfect person upon becoming a Christian, but there is a process that should begin to take place in us called sanctification. This process does not mean that an individual is not saved if he has a tattoo, smokes, or talks during the sermon (to cite the list included in Jim and Casper’s book). It does mean, however, that when a person becomes a follower of Jesus that he begins to act more like Jesus. And Jesus lived contrary to the world.
Coming just as you are is essentially impossible, but by the grace of God He finds you where you are, changes your heart, and calls you to become something holy.