God Loves You…
As I have talked to my fellow Christians, I have noticed that there are very few who have trouble with the idea that God loves them. Scripture plainly tells us that “God so loved the world . . .” (Jn 3:16), and that it is this love that allows us to become “children of God” (1 Jn 3:1). It is a truth that seems to be universally acknowledged that God loves us. However, many of those same fellow Christians somehow feel that God does not particularly like them. Some have admitted to feeling as though God was far away and pretty much unapproachable due to some sin, error, personality trait, anger, etc. that makes God keep his distance. Most, if not all, of us can relate to this. Therefore, I would like to take the rest of this brief post to attempt to give us a different perspective.
God Loves You…Because
I grew up in a Christianity steeped in proper behavior. “I don’t smoke, drink, cuss, or chew, and I don’t go with those who do.” My relationship with God hinged completely on how well I obeyed the “don’ts” (we never really seemed to talk about the “do’s”). I deeply believed that God loved me, but I was pretty sure that he would not choose to hang out with me. In fact, I secretly believed he was lying in wait for me to screw up and then levy some appropriate punishment.
Eventually, I was confronted with a few questions from Brennan Manning. “Do you really believe that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is gracious and that He cares about you? Do you really believe that He is always, unfailingly present to you as companion and support? Do you really believe that God is love?” (The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up, and Burnt Out, Chapter 4).
These questions propelled me into a search to determine what I really did think about God. Since Jesus tells us that if we have seen him, we have seen the Father (Jn 14:9), I started to look at Jesus to determine what God was really like. I know, what a novel idea.
God’s Love Seen Through Jesus
Jesus liked to hang out with people who were considered to be “sinners,” people who were not in good standing with the religious establishment. I noticed that they seemed to flock to him. The blind, the lame, the outcasts, the unclean, etc. found acceptance and a restoration of a relationship with the Father. They found love instead of condemnation. They found someone who valued them as people. Just one example, Jesus had a tax collector in his personal retinue. Tax collectors were seen as traitors by much of Israel as they were working for the occupying force, yet Jesus called Matthew to be one of his disciples. Zacchaeus was a tax collector as well, and Jesus went into Zacchaeus’ house and ate with him and with his friends.
There were no instances of Jesus telling people, “Go! Get your life right and then come back to see me.” In fact, it seems that their desire to “get their lives right” stemmed entirely from their encounters with him. This did not match the picture of God that I had; Jesus seemed to enjoy spending time with these people. If this was true, why wouldn’t he want to spend time with me as well? What was there to fear in this view of the Father? Didn’t Jesus come to show us how much the Father cares for us?
I know this may seem like a radical idea to some, but based on what I see of Jesus, I firmly believe that he and the Father desire to spend time with you. He has always been in love with you and desired your presence. Long before you ever believed, long before you repented, long before you were born, He loved you. There is no “He loves me when I [insert duty of choice].” He has always loved you and wants to “hang out” with you.
God Really Does Love You
To be clear, if you choose to hang out with Him, the encounter will change your life in unexpected ways. Love has a habit of doing that. But don’t all great relationships change us?