At the Heart of Love is Grace

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

There’s a pastor named Joe Novenson who often tells the story about when he first married his wife. He was eager to love her and provide for her and was sort of confident that he would be able to do it well. At that point he wasn’t a pastor; he was actually a factory worker.

One day, only a week or so after he got married, both of his hands were crushed in a horrible factory accident. The weeks and even years that followed were consumed with surgery after surgery. The worst part was that he could do nothing for himself (um, not even go to the bathroom!), much less for his wife. In fact, she had to take care of him like a little baby.

And he says he learned something very important about love by watching his wife take care of him. He learned that love is not something that we can earn; it is something that is given to us. It’s not given to us because we are lovely, but despite the fact that we are not. Love is actually a gift that makes the one loved become more lovely.

Now when you think about your relationship to God you probably think about it in terms of how much you might deserve God’s love. You might think, “Well, I’ve been pretty good. I haven’t been as disobedient as some people. Sure, I suppose God would love me this week.” Or there might be other weeks when asked how God feels about you, you might respond, “Oh, wow, I’m sure God can’t even look at me right now, I’m so disgusting…I’ve been horrible!”

What if I were to tell you that God does not love you based on how good or bad you’ve been (we’ve already established that we all deserve, um, death), but he loves you simply because he wants to make you beautiful. He wants to restore you to what you were meant to be. He loves you, well, because he loves you.

John, one of Jesus’ disciples, put it this way, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Quit worrying about whether or not you love God well enough, and start dwelling on the way in which he loves you. The more you are astounded by how he loves you when you have nothing to offer him, the more you’ll love him.

Now, about that word ‘propitiation’…what in the world does that mean? It means that Jesus absorbed all the punishment for our sin. That means the way Jesus loves us is by taking all the blame for our sin. Jesus even died for the fact that you don’t love him enough! Even that is covered! So today allow yourself to be astounded by the fact that Jesus would love you not when you were all cleaned up and on your best behavior, but when you were at your very worst!

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