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God’s unconditional love

April 7, 2013

“You stay the same through the ages, your love never changes” – Chris McClarney (Your Love Never Fails)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the love of God while at Spring Harvest and wanted to commit some thoughts to “paper”. Gerard Kelly reminded us that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. Christians have been taught that, but sometimes we seem to believe it more as a theory than a way of life. Working through John’s first letter there was of course a lot of talk about love. Many people it seems at Spring Harvest needed to rediscover God’s love for them.

Thinking about this has led me to three initial conclusions:

1. We can do nothing to gain God’s love

Bill Hybels expresses the difference between religion and Christianity very succinctly as “Do and Done”. Religion is about doing all we can in an attempt to please the god in question. In Christianity the necessary work has already been done – in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. There is nothing further we can add to that sacrifice which is still sufficient down through the centuries. Kelly reminded us of the parable of the prodigal son, who threw his life away but then returned to the father. This story would have been scandalous to the first audience, who believed that forgiveness could only be obtained through sacrifice of an animal.

In this parable there is no sacrifice. The father does not wait until the son has returned and made his peace before he forgives. He has already forgiven and longingly seeks the son’s return. The son has a well rehearsed speech recognising his rebellion and seeking a servant position, but the father does not even want to hear it. It was enough that he had come home.

As Christians we can be quite rigid as to how a person becomes a Christian and therefore experiences forgiveness and salvation. Perhaps we like to hear them say a set pattern of words, but there is nothing they can say which will persuade God to forgive. Jesus has already paid the price and all that is required, as with the son, is to recognise our brokenness and come home. These thoughts I think certainly challenge us to think about the way we preach the good news.

2. We can do nothing to earn God’s continued love.

Many of us teach the mercy and grace and love of God but seem to have difficulty living it. Even as Christians who have experienced God’s forgiveness we still have a sense that we need to earn God’s love all over again. Rob Parsons was talking about how we might view God as someone who is all too quick to criticise us for not enough prayer, not enough study, failing to say the right thing, getting it wrong, and we lose sight of the fact that God just wants us to have a relationship with him.

God loves us and will always love us. Our motivation in doing good should not be to earn God’s favour but should be that God’s love is alive in us. As has often been said there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, or to love us less. The cross of Jesus stands for eternity as the door to our salvation, and a life lived with God. Jesus’ death is all that is needed. His sacrifice is not imperfect or incomplete.

3. We can do nothing to lose God’s love

I know not all Christians agree with this, but this is the B side of the record. If Jesus’ sacrifice for us is complete, and does not depend on me, then just as I cannot add to Jesus’ work of salvation, neither can I take away from it. The Bible talks about the assurance of our salvation. If I can undo my salvation then there is no assurance. If I can lose what I have gained then Jesus’ death is not the solution Christians believe it to be.

God continues to love, but we fail. Even as Christians we are broken people and we get it wrong time and again. John reminds us that we deceive ourselves if we say we are without sin. We need to confess it and allow God to forgive. That is his promise to us.

How wonderful that God never lets go. He loves us from beginning to end. Are we ready to experience that love and to live in the light of his love?

 

 

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From → Christianity

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